My Ears Feel Clogged – What’s The Cause?

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 in that direction since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, naturally, but only hearing from a single direction leaves you feeling off-balance. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you were hoping it would. So, how long will your blocked ear last?

Exactly how long your blockage will persist depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. Some blockages recede by themselves and rather quickly at that; others might persist and require medical treatment.

As a general rule, though, if your blockage persists, you may want to seek out some help.

When Does a Clogged Ear Become a Concern?

You will probably start contemplating the cause of your blockage after a day. You’ll probably start thinking about what you’ve been doing over the past couple of days: for instance, did you get water in your ear somehow?

You may also consider your health. Are you suffering from the sort of pain or discomfort (or fever) that could be connected to an ear infection? If that’s the scenario, you might want to make an appointment.

This line of questioning is only a starting point. There are plenty of possible reasons for a blocked ear:

  • Changes in air pressure: If the pressure in the air changes abruptly, your eustachian tube can fail to adjust which can temporarily cause obstruction.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all interconnected, a sinus infection can create excess fluids to become stuck in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: A blocked ear and some kinds of permanent hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. If your “clogged ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to get it examined.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that ultimately obstructs your ears.
  • Growths: Certain kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can cause a blocked feeling in your ears (and even interfere with your hearing).
  • Allergies: Swelling and fluid production can develop when the body’s immune system kicks in – in response to an allergic reaction.
  • Earwax Build-up: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • The ear canal or eustachian tube gets water trapped in it: The little places inside the ear are alarmingly good at capturing sweat and water. (Temporary blockage can certainly occur if you sweat profusely).

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will most likely go back to normal after a day if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is behind your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (you might need an antibiotic to speed things up). And that might take up to a week or two. Sinus infections sometimes stick around even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as quickly as possible, then, will often involve a bit of patience (counterintuitive though it may be), and your expectations should be, well, variable.

Your first and most important job is to not cause the situation to get worse. When you first begin to feel like your ears are clogged, it may be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clean them out. This can be a particularly hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all sorts of issues and complications, from infection to hearing loss). If you use a cotton swab, you’re more likely to make things worse.

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

So, if your ear is still clogged after a day and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you might be justifiably impatient. In almost all cases, your blockage will take care of itself. But the general rule of thumb is that if things persist, it might be a wise decision to come see us. And you should see a doctor immediately for any sudden hearing loss.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like blocked ears. And you don’t want to ignore hearing loss because, as you’ve probably read in our other posts, it can lead to a whole host of other health issues.

Doing no additional harm first will allow your body a chance to mend and clean that blockage away naturally. But when that fails, intervention might be required. How long that takes will fluctuate depending on the root 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.