What is That Blocking my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. Your right ear is still completely clogged. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, of course, but only hearing from one direction leaves you 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?

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

You shouldn’t allow your blockage to linger for more than a week, as a rule of thumb, without having it examined.

When Should I Worry About a Blocked Ear?

If you’re on the second day of a blocked ear, you might start thinking about possible causes. Perhaps you’ll examine your behavior from the previous couple of days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

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

This line of questioning is merely a starting point. A blocked ear could have multiple possible causes:

  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become obstructed by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes suddenly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can temporarily cause obstruction.
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water stuck in it: The tiny areas in the ear are alarmingly efficient at capturing water and sweat. (If you tend to sweat profusely, this can definitely end up clogging your ears temporarily).
  • Earwax Build-up: Earwax can result in blockages if it’s not thoroughly draining or if it becomes compacted, hardening in place.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all interconnected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Growths: Some kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can cause a clogged feeling in your ears (and even obstruct your hearing).
  • Permanent loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some kinds of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You need to schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” persists 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. You may need to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is due to an ear infection (you might need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that might take as much as a week or two. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Some patience will be needed before your ears get back to normal (though that may feel counterintuitive), and you should be able to modify your expectations according to your exact situation.

Not doing anything to worsen the situation is your most important first step. When you first begin to feel like your ears are clogged, it may be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clear them out. All kinds of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be an especially dangerous approach. You will probably make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So you may be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days pass and you still have no idea what might be the cause of your blockage. A few days is normally enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But it may be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent decision to come see us if your blockage lasts for more than a week.

That feeling of blocked ears can also be a sign of hearing loss. And you shouldn’t ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve most likely read in our other posts, it can result in a whole range of other health concerns.

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 might be required. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this could take a varying amount of time.

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.