Why do my Ears Feel Clogged?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now a second day of the same thing. There’s still complete blockage 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, 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, how long will your blocked ear last?

It probably won’t be a great shock to discover that the number one variable in predicting the duration of your clogged ear will be the cause of the blockage. Some blockages recede by themselves and somewhat quickly at that; others might persist and require medical intervention.

You shouldn’t let your blockage linger, as a rule of thumb, without getting it checked.

When Should I Worry About a Clogged Ear?

If you’re on day two of a clogged ear, you may begin to think about potential causes. Perhaps you’ll examine your activities from the last two or three days: for instance, did you somehow get water in your ear?

You may also examine your health. Are you suffering from the sort of pain or discomfort (or fever) that could be connected to an ear infection? You might want to schedule an appointment if that’s the situation.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. There are plenty of possible causes for a clogged ear:

  • 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).
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can lead to blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water stuck in it: The tiny areas in the ear are surprisingly efficient at capturing sweat and water. (Short-term blockage can definitely occur if you sweat profusely).
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause fluid buildup and inflammation that eventually obstructs your ears.
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Air pressure changes: Sometimes, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to changes in air pressure, causing the feeling of a temporary blockage in one or both ears.
  • Permanent hearing loss: A blocked ear and some forms of permanent hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You should schedule an appointment if your “blocked ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can occur when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.

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

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will usually return to normal within a day. You may need to wait for your immune system to start working if your blockage is due to an ear infection (you might need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that might take up to a week or two. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as rapidly as you can, then, will usually involve a bit of patience (though that might feel counterintuitive), and you should be able to modify your expectations based on your exact circumstances.

Your first and most important job is to not cause the situation to get worse. When you first start to feel like your ears are blocked, it might be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clean them out. All kinds of issues, from ear infections to loss of hearing, can be caused by cotton swabs so this can be an especially dangerous approach. You will most likely worsen the situation if you use cotton swabs.

If Your Ear is Still Clogged…it Could be Hearing Loss

So you may be getting a bit antsy if you still have no idea what might be causing your blockage. A day is normally enough time for your body to clear up any blockage. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it might be a wise idea to come in for a consultation.

That sensation of feeling like your ears are clogged can also be an indication of hearing loss. And as you probably understand from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can cause other health issues, particularly over time.

Doing no additional harm first will allow your body a chance to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But treatment might be required when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the underlying cause of your blocked 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.