What is That Clogging my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s now been a couple of days. There’s still total obstruction in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear anything on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is picking up the slack, of course, but only being able to hear from one direction is leaving you feeling off-balance. It didn’t improve after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So will your blocked ear clear up soon?

Precisely how long your blockage will persist depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages subside by themselves and somewhat quickly at that; others may linger and call for medical intervention.

As a rule of thumb, though, if your blockage lasts much longer than one week, you might want to seek out some help.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Worry?

If you’re on day two of a clogged ear, you may begin to think about potential causes. You’ll most likely begin to think about your activities over the last couple of days: were you involved in anything that might have led to water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

What about the condition of your health? Are you dealing with the kind of discomfort and pain (or fever) that could be associated with an ear infection? You may want to schedule an appointment if that’s the case.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. A blocked ear could have multiple potential causes:

  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: Water and sweat can become trapped in the tiny areas of your ear with alarming ease. (Temporary blockage can certainly develop if you sweat profusely).
  • Permanent hearing loss: A blocked ear and some forms of irreversible hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. You need to schedule an appointment if your “clogged ear” lasts longer than it should.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even block your ears.
  • Air pressure changes: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can cause temporary blockage.
  • Accumulation of earwax: If earwax becomes compressed or is not thoroughly draining it can result in blockages.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, throat, and ears are all interconnected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can ultimately become clogged by fluid accumulation or inflammation from an ear infection.
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can manifest 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 culprit, your ears will normally get back to normal in a day or two. You might 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 may take as much as a week or two. Sinus infections have been known to stick around even longer.

A bit of patience will be needed before your ears get back to normal (though that might seem counterintuitive), and you need to be able to adjust your expectations according to your actual situation.

The number one most important task is to not make the situation worse. When your ears start feeling clogged, you might be inclined to take out the old cotton swab and start trying to physically clean things out. This can be a particularly hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all kinds of issues and complications, from infection to loss of hearing). 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 you might be getting a bit antsy if a couple of days go by and you still have no idea what could be causing your blockage. A few days is usually enough time for your body to eliminate any blockage. But it might be, as a general rule of thumb, a prudent idea to come see us if your blockage lasts for more than a week.

That feeling of clogged 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 range of other health issues.

Being careful not to worsen the problem will normally permit the body to take care of the matter on its own. But treatment might be needed when those natural means do not succeed. How long that takes will vary depending on the base cause of your clogged ears.

The content of this blog is the intellectual property of MedPB.com and is reprinted here with permission.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a personalized free hearing test and hearing loss consultation, call today to set up an appointment.