Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been 24 hours. There’s still total obstruction in your right ear. The last time you were able to hear anything in that direction was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off-balance as your left ear does double duty to pick up the slack. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Exactly how long your blockage will persist depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages recede by themselves and somewhat quickly at that; others could persist and call for medical intervention.

You shouldn’t allow your blockage to linger without getting it checked. Any sudden hearing loss should be treated as an emergency.

When Should I Worry About a Clogged Ear?

If you’re on day two of a clogged ear, you may begin to think about possible causes. Perhaps you’ll think about your behavior from the past couple of days: for instance, did you somehow get water in your ear?

You might also examine your health. Are you suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? You might want to schedule an appointment if that’s the situation.

Those questions are actually just the beginning. A clogged ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause fluid buildup and inflammation that ultimately blocks your ears.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Variations in air pressure: Sometimes, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Accumulation of earwax: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Irreversible hearing loss: Some kinds of hearing loss feel a lot like a clogged ear. You need to schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: Water and sweat can get trapped in the little places inside your ear with surprising ease. (If you tend to sweat profusely, this can certainly end up temporarily clogging your ears).
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Certain pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system reaction, which in turn generate fluid and swelling.

The Fastest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will probably return to normal if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is behind your clogged ears, you might 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). And that may take up to a week or two. You may have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

Getting your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will often involve a bit of patience (though that may feel counterintuitive), and you should be able to adjust your expectations based on your exact circumstances.

The number one most important job is to not make the situation worse. When your ears start feeling clogged, you might be inclined to take out the old cotton swab and try to manually clear things out. All kinds of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an especially dangerous strategy. You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

It’s Possible That Your “Blockage” is Hearing Loss

So you might be getting a little antsy if you still have no clue what might be the cause of your blockage. In almost all instances, your blockage will take care of itself. But it might be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us. It’s best to treat any sudden hearing loss immediately.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And as you probably know from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can result in other health issues, especially over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will usually permit the body to clear up the situation on its own. But treatment might be needed when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your clogged ears.

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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.
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