Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now a day later. There’s still total blockage in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear a thing in that direction since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, of course, but only being able to hear from one direction leaves you feeling off-balance. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So will your clogged ear clear up soon?

It most likely won’t be a huge surprise to discover that the single biggest factor in predicting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the blockage. You might need to get medical attention if your blockage isn’t the type that clears itself up quickly.

You shouldn’t let your blockage linger without having it examined. Sudden hearing loss of any kind should be evaluated by a doctor within 24 hours.

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Worry?

You will probably start contemplating the reason for your blockage after a day. Perhaps you’ll think about your activities from the last couple of days: for example, did you somehow get water in your ear?

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

Those questions are actually just the tip of the iceberg. A clogged ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • Variations in air pressure: Once in a while, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to variations in air pressure, causing the feeling of a short-term blockage in one or both ears.
  • Permanent loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some forms of permanent hearing loss can feel remarkably similar. You should make an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: The little places inside the ear are surprisingly efficient at capturing water and sweat. (If you tend to sweat copiously, this can definitely end up blocking your ears temporarily).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that eventually blocks your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all connected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can develop when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, lumps, and bulges which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Build-up of earwax: If earwax gets compacted or is not properly draining it can cause blockages..

How to Get Your Ears Back to Normal as Fast as Possible

Your ears will most likely go back to normal after a couple of days if air pressure is causing your blockage. 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 get faster relief). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Some patience will be necessary before your ears return to normal (though that might feel counterintuitive), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

Your first and most important task is to not cause the situation to get worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are plugged, it may be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clear them out. This can be a particularly hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been the cause of all sorts of problems 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 Clogged…it Could be Hearing Loss

So, if your ear is still clogged and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you should have it evalutated.

That feeling of clogged ears can also be a sign of hearing loss. And as you probably know from our other posts, untreated hearing loss can cause other health issues, particularly over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the problem will usually permit the body to take care of the matter on its own. But intervention may 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.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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