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Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now day two. There’s still complete obstruction in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, of course, but only hearing from a single direction is leaving you feeling off-balance. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So will your clogged ear improve soon?

It most likely won’t be a great shock to learn that the number one variable in predicting the duration of your clogged ear will be the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages recede on their own and fairly quickly at that; others may linger and require medical intervention.

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

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Concern?

If you’re on the second day of a blocked ear, you might start thinking about possible causes. You’ll most likely start thinking about what you’ve been doing over the past 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 suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? You might want to schedule an appointment if that’s the situation.

This line of questioning is merely a starting point. There are plenty of possible causes for a clogged ear:

  • Earwax Build-up: Earwax can result in blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Allergies: Fluid production and swelling can manifest when the body’s immune system goes to work – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Variations in air pressure: Once in a while, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to variations in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in one or both ears.
  • Permanent loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some forms of irreversible hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. If your “clogged ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to get it examined.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can bring about fluid buildup and inflammation that eventually obstructs your ears.
  • Water trapped in the ear canal or eustachian tube: The tiny places inside the ear are surprisingly efficient at capturing water and sweat. (Short-term blockage can definitely occur if you sweat profusely).
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.

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

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually get back to normal within a day or two. You may need to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is due to an ear infection (you may need an antibiotic to speed things up). This may take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Getting your ears back to normal as fast as you can, then, will usually involve a bit of patience (counterintuitive though it may be), and your expectations should be, well, adjustable.

Not doing anything to worsen the situation is your most important first step. When you first start to feel like your ears are blocked, it may be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clear them out. All kinds of issues, from ear infections to hearing loss, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

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

So, if your ear is still blocked on day two and you don’t have any really great clue as to what’s causing it, you might be reasonably impatient. In nearly all cases, 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 may be a smart idea to come see us.

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

Doing no further harm first will give your body a chance to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, treatment might be required. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the underlying cause of your clogged ears.

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