What is That Clogging my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been two days. There’s still total blockage in your right ear. 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 works overtime to pick up the slack. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So will your blocked ear clear up soon?

It probably won’t be a big surprise to learn that the number one factor in predicting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the blockage. Some blockages subside on their own and rather quickly at that; others may linger and call for medical treatment.

You shouldn’t allow your blockage to linger for longer than one week, as a general rule, without having it examined.

When Should I Be Concerned About a Clogged Ear?

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

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

Those questions are really just the beginning. There are plenty of possible causes for a blocked ear:

  • Growths: Some types of growths, lumps, and bulges can result in a blocked feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).
  • Earwax Build-up: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Air pressure variations: On occasion, 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.
  • Irreversible hearing loss: A clogged ear and some kinds of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You need to schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists longer than it should.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can manifest when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become clogged by fluid buildup or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to accumulate in your ears because your ears, nose and throat are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water stuck in it: The tiny areas in the ear are surprisingly good at trapping water and sweat. (If you tend to sweat copiously, this can definitely end up blocking your ears temporarily).

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

Your ears will most likely go back to normal after a couple of days 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 (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 have a sinus infection.

A bit of patience will be needed before your ears get back to normal (counterintuitive though it may be), and you need to be able to adjust your expectations based on your actual circumstances.

The number one most important job is to not make the situation worse. When you first start to feel like your ears are clogged, it might be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clear them out. This can be an especially hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all sorts of problems and difficulties, from infection to loss of hearing). If you use a cotton swab, you’re probably going to make things worse.

If Your Ear is Still Clogged After a Week…it Could be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear is still blocked after two days and you don’t have any really great clue as to what’s causing it, you may be understandably impatient. In almost all instances, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it might be a wise decision to come see us.

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

Being careful not to worsen the issue will usually permit the body to take care of the matter on its own. But when that fails, treatment might be required. How long that takes will vary depending on the root cause of your clogged 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.