Fluid behind the eardrum
December 7, 2004 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Fluid behind the eardrum. Anything I can do about it? [More inside]

Last year when winter hit, my right ear developed what my now ex-doctor said was "fluid behind the ear drum". I could barely hear from that ear and it was one of the more miserable experiences I've had. He told me to take Dimetapp until it went away, which didn't help.

In the Spring my hearing improved and I was happy again. With winter ramping up it's getting bad again. I'm planning to head to my new doctor about it sometime soon but I'd love to know if anyone has experiences/knowledge they can share about it. Also: I've tried the "hold my nose and blow" trick, that just temporarily makes it worse.
posted by frenetic to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Have you tried lying your head down on a heating pad? When I got water in my ears after swimming, I found that it worked wonders.
posted by Miss Bitchy Pants at 9:38 AM on December 7, 2004

Nose drops?
(I say this not knowing what Dimetapp is)

I always use nose drops as soon as I get a cold to prevent an ear infection. (Nearly 40 and I still get inner ear infections)
Steaming above hot water helps too. If you do it every day.
posted by ginz at 9:53 AM on December 7, 2004

I get that whenever I'm sick and it will last for weeks afterwards. The doctor told me that the gunk in the sinuses needs to clear before the fluid in the ear will go away, and I should take a lot of pseudoephedrine (within reason, of course), nasal spray and do the steaming thing. It seemed to work.
posted by malpractice at 10:18 AM on December 7, 2004

Upon noticing your ear getting painful or plugged up, lay on your side with that ear up, and drip a few drops of rubbing alcohol into it. The best way to do this in my experience is to twist up the end of a tissue, poke it into the alcohol bottle and get it wet, then squeeze it above your ear so that a few drops go into your ear. If you have used a Q-tip recently or otherwise aggravated the inside of your ear, this will sting, but you will get used to that. Let the alcohol sit there for a minute or two, then put a tissue over your ear and roll over to allow the alcohol to drain. The alcohol kills bacteria and more readily evaporates than water. YMMV but it works for me.
posted by Doohickie at 10:30 AM on December 7, 2004

I second the nose spray and the pseudoephedrine. Also, do NOT 'hold your nose and blow' if you already have fluid in your ears. It won't help, and it might lead to further ear infections.

I feel for you, frenetic. Earaches are the worst.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:32 AM on December 7, 2004

Be sure to keep your head, and especially ears, really well protected against cold. Chill can turn even a mild earache into excrutiating.

Was your doctor a general practictioner, or an ear/nose/throat (otolaryngology) specialist? There should be more options than just taking Dimetapp.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:56 PM on December 7, 2004

I am not a medical anything.

The fluid is in your middle ear, so nothing you do to your outer ear (drops, positioning) are going to do anything. You should see an ENT (ear nose throat) specialist if you haven't already. On kids they typically insert a tiny tube in the eardrum that relieves the middle ear pressure and heals quickly. I don't know if they do that with adults, but I assume they would.
posted by kmel at 1:08 PM on December 7, 2004

You should see a doctor if it's actually fluid behind the eardrum. I second almost all of the above

However, if you can't see a doctor or If it's your run of the mill ear infection, raw garlic is an amazing antibiotic. I get ear infections quite often, and I haven't had one get to the excruciatingly painful stage in years and years because of garlic.

The trick is you need to eat it whole. Cooking or mincing it reduces the potency. Chew a few cloves a day. At least one a day, to as many as a dozen, depending on the strength of infection. Make sure you deeply breath in all those nice, heady fumes while you're chewing, as they seem to help.

Yeah, it's gonna burn like crazy. The best antidote to the burning is a bite of cheese, but use that sparingly because dairy products tend to inflame infections.

Yeah, you're going to smell like a garlic press for a while. It's a very small price to pay for nearly free medicine that doesn't have the side effects of antibiotics, including the tendency of antibiotics to create super strains of bacteria that we need ever-stronger antibiotics to fight.

Garlic as a side-effect promotes low blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and is laden with tasty vitamins and minerals (many of them the hard to obtain and metabolize rare-earth minerals), and doesn't seem to kill off your own natural and beneficial stomach and skin bacteria. It'll also makes some folks extremely sleepy after chewing on a clove or three, as it produces an immediate blood-pressure drop. Avoid driving under the influence of garlic. Also, anyone on blood thinning or anticoagulants should probably not use garlic, or use them carefully.
posted by loquacious at 2:11 PM on December 7, 2004

I have had ear problems all my life, so I really feel for you. Make an appointment with an ENT and for the meantime, take some Tylenol and sleep with your head elevated to reduce the pressure. As people have said, this is not the time to try the "hold nose and blow" thing-- you could rupture your eardrum and sweet jesus, then you'll be sorry.

The ENT will probably prescribe some drops and might use a small needle to relieve some of the pressure if it looks like the eardrum might pop. That might sound bad, but you won't even feel it.
posted by 4easypayments at 2:49 PM on December 7, 2004

might use a small needle to relieve some of the pressure

posted by mecran01 at 4:21 PM on December 7, 2004

Only maybe... I know it sounds terrible, but you'd much rather have the doctor numb your eardrum and remove some of the fluid with a needle than stay home and have the eardrum rupture on it's own. Actually, getting your eardrum numbed when you have a painful infection is actually pretty damn nice.
posted by 4easypayments at 5:16 PM on December 7, 2004

I second the garlic thing, I was having the same problem due to what turned out to be mold in my eustacian tube, and my Traditional Chinese Medicine/ Western MD doctor recommended eating a whole organic garlic clove every day for two weeks, following a strict anti-candida/ anti-fungus diet for a month, and taking a whole bottle of some kind of TCM immunity enhancer. The diet thing was - no beer or wine, no yeasted foods, no raw fruit that might have mold on it, lots of cooked astringent veggies like greens and spinach, lots of chicken broth with lemon and garlic. (So I guess no matter what your medicinal background, chicken soup and garlic really might be the cure. )

In terms of topical treatment, he had me buy a garlic/mullein tincture from the health food store and sleep with it in both ears every night for a month. Also I had to use rubbing alcohol in my ears after every bath or swim as mentioned above.

Good luck!
posted by pomegranate at 7:08 PM on December 7, 2004

Frenetic, after I posted I went to your site and I see you're a musician. You might be having hearing damage; you really SHOULD see an ear doctor and let them test your hearing as well.
posted by pomegranate at 7:11 PM on December 7, 2004

Upon noticing your ear getting painful or plugged up, lay on your side with that ear up, and drip a few drops of rubbing alcohol into it.
For the love of God, do NOT do this if your eardrum has a propensity to get a perforation- it happens more often than people realize. I tried that when my eardrum had a perforation..Honestly the most excruciating pain in my life.
And poking a small hole in the ear drum? I've had plenty of experience with ear doctors, and never heard this namely because there is always a chance the eardrum won't full/properly heal from a hole. I personally need a new eardrum from too many ear problems resulting in perforations.
Oh, and I also recommend going to a real ear/throat/nose doctor instead of a regular practicionar on a regular basis getting it cleaned out the proper way- not by flushing it with water. Works wonders to prevent future ear problems!
posted by jmd82 at 10:28 PM on December 7, 2004

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