Why Are my Ears Clogged?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been two days. There’s still complete obstruction in your right ear. The last time you were able to hear anything on that side was yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only hearing from one direction is leaving you off-balance. You were hoping it would have cleared up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So will your clogged ear clear up soon?

It most likely won’t be a huge surprise to find out that the single biggest factor in projecting the duration of your blocked ear is the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages subside on their own and fairly quickly at that; others could linger and require medical intervention.

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

When Should I Be Concerned About a Blocked Ear?

If you’re on the second day of a clogged ear, you might start thinking about potential causes. You’ll probably begin to think about your activities over the past couple of days: were you involved in anything that could have resulted in water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

You might also think about your health. Do have any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the case, you might want to make an appointment.

Those questions are actually just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of potential causes for a clogged ear:

  • Air pressure variations: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to compensate which can cause temporary blockage.
  • Earwax accumulation: If earwax gets compressed or is not properly draining it can cause blockages..
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can manifest when the body’s immune system goes to work – as a reaction to an allergic reaction.
  • Permanent loss of hearing: A clogged ear and some forms of permanent hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. If your “blocked ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to get it examined.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become blocked by fluid buildup or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all connected, a sinus infection can produce excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, lumps, and bulges which can even block your ears.
  • Water stuck in the ear canal or eustachian tube: Water and sweat can become stuck in the tiny areas of your ear with alarming ease. (Short-term blockage can certainly occur if you sweat heavily).

How to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal as Quickly as Possible

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will normally return to normal within a day or two. You might have to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is due to an ear infection (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that could take as much as a week or two. You may have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

Getting your ears back to normal as rapidly as possible, then, will often involve a bit of patience (though that might seem counterintuitive), and your expectations need to be, well, adjustable.

Your first and most important job is to not cause the situation to get worse. When your ears start feeling blocked, you might be inclined to pull out the old cotton swab and try to manually clean things out. This can be a very dangerous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all sorts of problems and complications, from infection to hearing loss). If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make the situation worse.

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

So, if your ear is still clogged on day two and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you may be understandably impatient. In almost all cases, your blockage will clear itself up after a few days. But it might be, as a basic rule of thumb, a prudent decision to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

That sensation of feeling like your ears are clogged can also be an indication of hearing loss. And you don’t want to ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can result in a whole host of other health problems.

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will normally allow the body to clear up the matter on its own. But treatment might be required when those natural means do not succeed. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this may take a varying amount of time.

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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.