Florida Hearing Matters - Fort Lauderdale, FL

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been a couple of days. There’s still total obstruction in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear a thing in that direction since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only hearing from a single direction leaves you feeling off-balance. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Precisely how long your blockage will persist depends, not surprisingly, 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 treatment.

As a rule of thumb, though, if your blockage lasts much longer than a week, you may want to get some help.

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Concern?

You will most likely begin to think about the reason for your blockage after about two days. Maybe you’ll examine your activities from the past couple of days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

You might also think about your health. Are you suffering from the kind of discomfort and pain (or fever) that may be related to an ear infection? If that’s the case, you might want to make an appointment.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. A clogged ear could have numerous possible causes:

  • Variations in air pressure: Sometimes, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to changes in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in one or both ears.
  • Water stuck in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The tiny areas in the ear are surprisingly efficient at trapping water and sweat. (If you tend to sweat copiously, this can certainly end up temporarily clogging your ears).
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system reaction, which in turn cause swelling and fluid.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can produce fluid accumulate in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Earwax Build-up: If earwax becomes compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages..
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become blocked by fluid buildup or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Permanent hearing impairment: A blocked ear and some forms of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You need to make an appointment if your “clogged ear” persists longer than it should.

The Quickest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will usually get back to normal within a day or two. If an ear infection is behind your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (you might need an antibiotic to get faster relief). This could take up to a couple of weeks. You may have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

Some patience will be necessary before your ears return to normal (counterintuitive though it might be), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

Not doing anything to aggravate the situation is the first and most important step. When your ears start to feel clogged, you may be tempted to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to manually clear your ears out. All sorts of problems, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be an especially dangerous approach. If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

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

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

That feeling of clogged ears can also be a sign of hearing loss. And as you most likely understand from our other posts, untreated hearing loss can lead to other health issues, particularly over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the problem will usually permit the body to clear up the situation on its own. But when that fails, intervention may be necessary. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this may take a varying amount of time.

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