Hearing Health Blog

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a full day. Your right ear is still totally clogged. The last time you were able to hear anything on that side was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to compensate. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So will your clogged ear clear up soon?

Exactly how long your blockage will persist depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. You might need to seek out medical attention if your blockage isn’t the kind that clears itself up quickly.

You shouldn’t allow your blockage to linger without having it checked, and always treat sudden hearing loss as an emergency.

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

If you’re on the second day of a blocked ear, you might start thinking about potential causes. Maybe you’ll think about your behavior from the past two or three days: for example, did you get water in your ear somehow?

You might also consider your health. Are you suffering from the kind of discomfort and pain (or fever) that could be connected to an ear infection? You may want to make an appointment if that’s the situation.

Those questions are really just the tip of the iceberg. A blocked ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can produce excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax becomes compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Permanent loss of hearing: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. If your “blocked ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to have it checked out.
  • Growths: Certain types of growths, bulges, and lumps can result in a blocked feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid buildup or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can occur when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water stuck in it: Water and sweat can become trapped in the little areas of your ear with surprising ease. (Temporary blockage can certainly occur if you sweat profusely).
  • Air pressure variations: Occasionally, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in your ear or ears.

How to Get Your Ears Back to Normal as Fast as You Can

Your ears will probably go back to normal if the blockage is caused by air pressure. If an ear infection is to blame for your clogged ears, you may have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (you might need an antibiotic to speed things up). This could take up to a couple of weeks. You might 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 return to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and your expectations need to be, well, adjustable.

Your first and most important job is to not make the situation worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are plugged, it might be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clean them out. This can be an especially dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all sorts of problems and complications, from infection to hearing loss). You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

If Your Ear is Still Blocked…it May be Hearing Loss

So you could be getting a little antsy if you still have no clue what could be the cause of your blockage. In almost all cases, your blockage will clear itself up. But it might be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us if your blockage lasts.

Early indications of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And as you probably know from our other posts, untreated hearing loss can cause other health problems, particularly over time.

Doing no additional harm first will give your body a chance to heal and clear that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, intervention might be necessary. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the root cause of your blocked ears.

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