What is That Clogging my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been two days. Your right ear is still totally clogged. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only hearing from one direction is leaving you feeling off-balance. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So will your clogged ear clear up soon?

It most likely won’t be a big shock to discover that the number one factor in projecting the duration of your blocked ear will be the cause of the blockage. Some blockages recede by themselves and rather quickly at that; others may persist and call for medical intervention.

You shouldn’t let your blockage linger for more than one week, as a rule of thumb, without getting it examined.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Concern?

You will most likely begin to think about the reason for your blockage after about a couple of days. You’ll probably start thinking about your activities over the past couple of days: for instance, did you somehow get water in your ear?

What about your state of health? Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the case, you may want to make an appointment.

This line of questioning is merely a starting point. A blocked ear could have numerous potential causes:

  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid buildup in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about fluid buildup and inflammation that eventually obstructs your ears.
  • Variations in air pressure: Once in a while, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Irreversible hearing loss: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. You need to make an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water stuck in it: The little areas in the ear are surprisingly efficient at trapping water and sweat. (Short-term blockage can definitely occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Growths: Some types of growths, lumps, and bulges can cause a clogged feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compacted, hardening in place.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will normally go back to normal in a day or two. You might have to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (you may need an antibiotic to speed things up). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes last even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will usually involve some patience (though that might feel counterintuitive), and you need to be able to adjust your expectations according to your exact situation.

The number one most important job is to not make the situation worse. When your ears begin feeling blocked, you may be inclined to pull out the old cotton swab and try to manually clean things out. This can be an especially hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all kinds of problems and difficulties, from infection to loss of hearing). If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make the situation worse.

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

So, if your ear remains blocked after two days and you don’t have any really great clue as to what’s causing it, you may be justifiably impatient. A few days is normally enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And you don’t want to neglect hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can result in a whole host of other health issues.

Being careful not to worsen the problem will usually allow the body to clear up the matter on its own. But when that fails, treatment could be necessary. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this might take a varying amount of time.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.