Why Are my Ears Blocked?

HEARING TIPS

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. There’s still total obstruction 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 compensate. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Exactly how long your blockage will last depends, not surprisingly, on what the cause of the blockage is. You might need to seek out medical attention if your blockage isn’t the kind that clears itself up quickly.

As a general rule, though, if your blockage persists much longer than one week, you might want to get some help.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

If you’re on the second day of a blocked ear, you might begin to think about potential causes. You’ll most likely begin to think about your activities over the last couple of days: were you involved in anything that could have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for instance?

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

Those questions are truly just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of possible reasons for a clogged ear:

  • Changes in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes all of a sudden, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause obstruction.
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: The little areas in the ear are surprisingly good at trapping water and sweat. (If you often sweat profusely, this can certainly end up blocking your ears temporarily).
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can manifest when the body’s immune system goes to work – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately blocks your ears.
  • Build-up of earwax: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to accumulate in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all connected (causing a clog).
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A clogged ear and some forms of permanent hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You need to schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.

The Quickest Way to Get Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will probably go back to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is behind your blocked 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 really help). And that could take as much as a week or two. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will usually involve some patience (though that might seem counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

The number one most important task is to not make the situation worse. When you first start to feel like your ears are blocked, it may be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clear them out. All sorts of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an extremely dangerous strategy. You will probably make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So, if your ear remains blocked after two days and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you might be reasonably impatient. In nearly all instances, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things last 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 an indication of hearing loss. 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 cautious not to worsen the problem will usually permit the body to clear up the situation on its own. But intervention may be required when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will vary depending on the underlying cause of your blocked ears.

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