What is That Clogging my Ears?

Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

It’s been a day. There’s still total blockage in your right ear. The last time you were able to hear anything on that side was yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear works overtime to pick up the slack. You thought it might up after a good night’s sleep, but that’s not happening. So will your clogged ear clear up soon?

Exactly how long your blockage will persist depends, not unexpectedly, on what the cause of the blockage is. You could need to get medical attention if your blockage is not the kind that clears itself up quickly.

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

When Does a Blocked Ear Become a Concern?

You will most likely start contemplating the reason for your blockage after a while. Perhaps you’ll examine your behavior from the past two or three days: were you doing anything that might have resulted in water getting trapped in your ear, for example?

What about your state of health? Are you suffering from any symptoms of an ear infection? If that’s the case, you might want to make an appointment.

This line of questioning is merely a starting point. A clogged ear could have multiple possible causes:

  • Growths: Certain kinds of growths, bulges, and lumps can cause a clogged feeling in your ears (and even impact your hearing).
  • Earwax accumulation: Earwax can cause blockages if it’s not properly draining or if it becomes compressed, hardening in place.
  • Irreversible hearing impairment: Some forms 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.
  • Allergies: Some pollen allergies can trigger the body’s immune system reaction, which in turn produces swelling and fluid.
  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause inflammation and fluid buildup that eventually blocks your ears.
  • Sinus infection: Sinus infections can cause fluid to accumulate in your ears because your ears, throat, and nose are all interconnected (causing a clog).
  • Water trapped in the eustachian tube or ear canal: Water and sweat can get trapped in the little places inside your ear with surprising ease. (Temporary blockage can definitely occur if you sweat heavily).
  • Air pressure variations: Sometimes, your Eustachian tube can fail to properly adjust to variations in air pressure, creating the feeling of a temporary blockage in one or both ears.

The Fastest Way to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal

Your ears will probably go back to normal after if air pressure is causing your blockage. If an ear infection is to blame for your blocked ears, you may have to wait until your body gets rid of the virus or bacteria at work (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can really help). This could take up to a couple of weeks. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.

Bringing your ears back to normal as rapidly as possible, then, will normally involve some patience (though that may feel counterintuitive), and you should be able to adjust your expectations according to your actual situation.

Not doing anything to aggravate the situation is the first and most important step. When you first begin to feel like your ears are clogged, it might be tempting to attempt to use cotton swabs to clear them out. All sorts of problems, from ear infections to hearing loss, can come from using cotton swabs so this can be a particularly dangerous strategy. You will most likely make the situation worse if you use cotton swabs.

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

So, if your ear remains clogged and you don’t have any really good ideas as to what’s causing it, you might be justifiably impatient. In nearly all instances, your blockage will clear itself up. But the general rule of thumb is that if things last, it might be a smart decision to come see us. And you should treat any sudden hearing loss as an emergency.

Early signs of hearing loss can also feel like clogged ears. And as you most likely understand from our other posts, untreated hearing loss can cause other health problems, especially over time.

Being cautious not to worsen the issue will usually permit the body to clear up the matter on its own. But when that fails, treatment might be necessary. How long that takes will vary depending on the base cause of your blocked ears.

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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.