My Ears Are Blocked – What is That?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a day. 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 trying to compensate, naturally, but only being able to hear from one direction is leaving you off-balance. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

It most likely won’t be a great surprise to find out that the single biggest variable in predicting the duration of your blocked ear is the cause of the blockage. Some blockages go away on their own and somewhat quickly at that; others might persist and call for medical treatment.

You shouldn’t let your blockage linger, as a general rule, without having it examined. And you should treat any sudden hearing loss as an emergency.

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 possible causes. You’ll most likely begin to think about what you’ve been doing for the last couple of days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

You might also think about your health. Are you suffering from the kind of pain or discomfort (or fever) that might be linked to an ear infection? You might want to schedule an appointment if that’s the case.

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

  • Water stuck in the eustachian tube or ear canal: Water and sweat can get trapped in the little areas of your ear with surprising ease. (If you often sweat profusely, this can certainly end up temporarily clogging your ears).
  • Growths: Certain kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can result in a blocked feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).
  • 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 occur when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to buildup in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A clogged ear and some forms of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You need to make an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax gets compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation due to an ear infection.

How to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal as Quickly as You Can

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually return to normal within a day. If an ear infection is behind your blocked ears, you may have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (you might need an antibiotic to speed things up). This may take up to a couple of weeks. You might have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

A bit of patience will be needed before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

Your first and most important job is to not make the situation worse. When your ears start to feel clogged, you might be tempted to pull out the old cotton swab and attempt to manually clear things out. This can be a particularly hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all sorts of problems and complications, from infection to loss of hearing). If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

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

So, if your ear is still blocked and you don’t have any really great ideas as to what’s causing it, you may be understandably impatient. In nearly all cases, your blockage will take care of itself. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us if your blockage persists.

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

Being careful not to worsen the issue will normally allow the body to clear up the situation on its own. But when that fails, intervention might be required. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the base cause of your blocked ears.

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.