What is That Clogging my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been a couple of days. Your right ear is still completely blocked. You haven’t been able to hear anything in that direction since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, naturally, but only being able to hear from a single direction is leaving you feeling off-balance. 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 huge surprise to discover that the single biggest variable in projecting the duration of your blocked ear will be the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages subside on their own and fairly quickly at that; others could linger and require medical treatment.

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

When Should I Be Concerned About a Clogged Ear?

You will most likely begin to think about the reason for your blockage after about two days. Perhaps you’ll think about your behavior from the last couple of days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

You may also consider your health. Are you dealing with the sort of discomfort and pain (or fever) that could be linked to an ear infection? You may want to make an appointment if that’s the case.

Those questions are really just the tip of the iceberg. A blocked ear could have numerous possible causes:

  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can result in blockages if it’s not thoroughly draining or if it becomes compacted, hardening in place.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system kicks in – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately blocks your ears.
  • Variations in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause obstruction.
  • Water stuck in the eustachian tube or ear canal: Water and sweat can become stuck in the tiny areas of your ear with surprising ease. (Temporary blockage can certainly occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Permanent hearing impairment: Some forms of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. If your “blocked ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to have it checked out.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all connected, a sinus infection can produce excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).

The Quickest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

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

Getting your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will usually involve some patience (counterintuitive though it might be), and you should be able to change your expectations according to your exact circumstances.

Not doing anything to exacerbate the situation is the first and most important step. When your ears begin to feel blocked, you may be tempted to pull out the old cotton swab and try to physically clean your ears out. This can be a very hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all kinds of issues and difficulties, from infection to loss of hearing). You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

If Your Ear is Still Blocked After a Week…it Could be 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 may be justifiably impatient. A few days is normally enough time for your body to get rid of any blockage. But the general rule of thumb is that if things persist for more than a week or so, it may be a smart decision to come in for a consultation.

That sensation of feeling like your ears are blocked can also be an indication of hearing loss. And as you most likely know from our other posts, untreated hearing loss can lead to other health concerns, particularly over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will normally permit the body to clear up the matter on its own. But treatment could be needed when those natural means fail. How long that takes will fluctuate 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.