My Ears Feel Clogged – What’s The Cause?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. There’s still complete blockage in your right ear. You haven’t been able to hear anything on that side since yesterday morning. Your left ear is trying to compensate, of course, but only being able to hear from one direction leaves you feeling off-balance. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not the case. So will your blocked ear improve soon?

Exactly how long your blockage will last depends, not surprisingly, on what the cause of the blockage is. You could need to get medical attention if your blockage isn’t the type that clears itself up quickly.

You shouldn’t let your blockage linger for more than a week, as a general rule, without getting it examined.

When Should I Be Concerned About a Clogged Ear?

If you’re on the second day of a clogged ear, you might begin to think about potential causes. Perhaps you’ll examine your behavior from the past couple of days: were you doing anything that could have led to water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

You might also examine your health. Are you experiencing the sort of pain or discomfort (or fever) that may be associated with an ear infection? If that’s the case, you might want to schedule an appointment.

Those questions are truly just the beginning. A blocked ear could have numerous possible causes:

  • Air pressure variations: Sometimes, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to variations in air pressure, creating the feeling of a short-term blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system response, which in turn produces swelling and fluid.
  • Ear Infection: Your ear can eventually become clogged by fluid buildup or inflammation due to an ear infection.
  • Irreversible loss of hearing: Some types of hearing loss feel a lot like a blocked ear. If your “clogged ear” is persisting longer than it should, you need to get it checked out.
  • 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).
  • Growths: Your ears can get growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Water stuck in the ear canal or eustachian tube: The little areas in the ear are alarmingly efficient at trapping sweat and water. (Temporary blockage can certainly develop if you sweat heavily).
  • Accumulation of earwax: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not effectively draining or if it becomes compacted, hardening in place.

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

So, if air pressure is the cause, your ears will normally get back to normal within a day or two. If an ear infection is behind your clogged ears, you might have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work (you may need an antibiotic to get faster relief). And that could take as much as a week or two. You might have to wait even longer than that if you’re suffering from a sinus infection.

A bit of patience will be required before your ears return to normal (though that may seem counterintuitive), and your expectations need to be, well, adjustable.

The number one most important task is to not make the situation worse. When your ears start feeling blocked, you may be tempted to pull out the old cotton swab and try to manually clean things 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). You will most likely make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

If Your Ear is Still Blocked After a Week…it Could be Hearing Loss

So you might be getting a little antsy if a couple of days pass 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 may be, as a general rule of thumb, a good decision to come see us if your blockage persists for more than a week.

That feeling of blocked ears can also be an indication of hearing loss. And as you most likely understand from our other posts, neglected hearing loss can lead to other health concerns, especially over time.

Being careful not to worsen the issue will normally permit the body to take care of the matter on its own. But when that fails, treatment might be necessary. 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.