Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. There’s still complete blockage in your right ear. The last time you remember hearing anything in that direction was yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, of course, but only hearing from a single direction leaves you off-balance. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So, how long will your ear remain blocked?

It most likely won’t be a great surprise to learn that the number one variable in predicting the duration of your blocked ear is the cause of the obstruction. You might need to get medical attention if your blockage is not the kind that clears itself up quickly.

As a general rule, though, if your blockage persists much longer than a week, you may want to seek out some help.

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Worry?

If you’re on the second day of a clogged ear, you might begin to think about potential causes. You’ll probably start thinking about what you’ve been doing for the last couple of days: were you involved in anything that might have resulted in water getting stuck in your ear, for example?

You might also think about your health. Are you dealing with the sort of pain or discomfort (or fever) that could be linked to an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, you might want to schedule an appointment.

Those questions are actually just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of possible causes for a blocked ear:

  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Air pressure variations: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can temporarily cause blockage.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can develop when the body’s immune system goes to work – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately blocks your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to accumulate in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: Water and sweat can become trapped in the tiny areas of your ear with surprising ease. (If you often sweat profusely, this can certainly end up clogging your ears temporarily).
  • Accumulation of earwax: Earwax can result in blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A clogged ear and some forms of permanent hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You should make an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.

How to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal as Quickly as Possible

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually get back to normal within a day or two. If an ear infection is to blame for your blocked ears, you may have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can be very helpful). This could take up to a couple of weeks. You may have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

A bit of patience will be required before your ears get back to normal (counterintuitive though it may be), and your expectations need to be, well, adjustable.

The number one most important task is to not make the situation worse. When your ears start feeling clogged, you might be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and try to manually clear your ears out. All kinds of problems, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an extremely dangerous approach. If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

If Your Ear is Still Blocked After a Week…it Might be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear remains clogged after two days and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you might be reasonably impatient. In nearly all cases, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But it might be, as a basic rule of thumb, a good decision to come see us if your blockage lasts for more than a week.

That sensation of feeling like your ears are blocked can also be a sign of hearing loss. And as you probably understand from our other posts, untreated hearing loss can cause other health issues, especially over time.

Being careful not to worsen the issue will normally permit the body to take care of the matter on its own. But treatment might be required when those natural means fail. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the root cause of your clogged ears.

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