Weird ear infection remains
April 28, 2010 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Something is horribly wrong with my right inner ear. There is an ever present pressure behind my jaw and in my sinuses, worse when I'm laying on that side and worse when I'm eating (and worse, apparently, driving in a car going over 60mph).

This has been going on ever since I had what sounds really similar to otitis media (with, ew, drainage happening after three days...and during those three days I had bucket head and could hear nothing but myself walking and talking). I don't have health insurance anymore, but when I did (lost it in November when I turned 19) my doctors just told me it was earwax (i.e., they didn't see anything, I guess).
It just always feels blocked, even in the back of my sinuses. I also feel a kind of swelling behind my jaw (below my ear and above where the lymph nodes are generally felt), that has been there since last March. When I press on it, I can feel the pressure radiating into my ear.
I just fear it's going to close up again like for those three days last year.
I know you're not a doctor, but maybe you've had this. If you think it's really bad or requires scary surgery, just say it nicely—I'm feeling worse just writing this! Is there a chance it'll go away by itself? It's not *quite* as bad as it was in, say, July.

Oh, I've had chronic ear infections as a kid and a sinus infection every year throughout high school. I don't have a lot of noticeable hearing loss, just pressure. I'm scared to ever go in an airplane.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You need someone to take a look at that and probably prescribe antibiotics; if you feel OK telling a mod where you are, perhaps someone in that area can tell you where to find a good free clinic or cheap urgent-care place. You can get a lot of generic antibiotic scrips filled very cheaply at Wal-Mart, if you're in the US, and there are clinics in some drugstores now that can examine you for a fee.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:28 AM on April 28, 2010

It is not going to go away on its own.
It could get worse.
It could get into the bone.
It could be easy to treat.
It could need surgery.
It could be earwax.
It could be an infection.

You've had problems for months and months.
Regardless of the cost, it is time to see a professional about this.
Take thee to a doctor, please.
Get better.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:30 AM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

As someone who has had innumerable ear infections and surgeries, I'll offer up chronic mastoiditis as a possibility. (IANAD, but I would like to scare you into seeing a doctor. Infections in your head are infections near your brain. And that's not something to take lightly.
posted by the jam at 11:30 AM on April 28, 2010

I am not a medical professional, so I can't say whether this is something severe or not, but speaking as someone who is hearing impaired (from birth), don't mess around with it, you really don't want to lose it. It's worth whatever you have to pay to treat it; I'd sure pay quite a bit to get it back.

Is there a chance it'll go away by itself? It's not *quite* as bad as it was in, say, July.

It's been 10 months? Did the doctors clean out the earwax last year? Did it make any difference? An audiologist can clean the wax for you and would likely be cheaper than an otolaryngologist, but wax doesn't cause painful pressure so it's probably something else.
posted by desjardins at 11:31 AM on April 28, 2010

Did the doctor/nurse ever try flushing your ear?

If you've got an earwax blockage, it hurts like hell, and impedes your hearing. Flushing takes the nurse all of 5 minutes, and can cure the problem instantly.

I had this happen to me last year, and after 2-3 days in pain, and worrying that I'd lost my hearing for good, finally dragged myself to an urgent care clinic. The nurse took one look, said "Yep, it's blocked," and used a big syringe to squirt some water into my ear. The relief was literally instant.

Although you can do this procedure yourself, you can seriously damage your hearing if you have other issues going on, so don't try it yourself.

In short: Get yourself to a doctor. If you don't have insurance, see if there's a Minute Clinic near you. According to that link, you'll pay about $60 for an ear exam, which shouldn't break the bank.
posted by schmod at 11:32 AM on April 28, 2010

Yep, get yourself to a doctor. I had pretty much these same symptoms this weekend, and the doctor told me it wasn't an ear infection -- just blocked tubes, most likely. But my mom lost some hearing several years ago after a bad bout with something similar.

If it's anything like mine, you will probably need some Mucinex D (not DM) -- the from-the-pharmacist kind. Or maybe some eardrops or something. Try to pop your ears. But don't take my advice until you get this checked out and find that it's not something more serious. (Or, you know, at all -- IANAD.)
posted by Madamina at 11:37 AM on April 28, 2010

Go see a doctor! Urgent care clinics (like the Minute Clinic schmod suggests above) are everywhere. They're easy to get into, the fees are spelled out upfront, and they are usually open in the evenings/weekends.

I have had a lot of ear issues in my life, and many times I went to urgent care clinics to handle the issue. They were very helpful. Recently I discovered that I could relieve my problems with adequate allergy medication. That may not be the case for you, but it took a doctor to diagnose the problem and prescribe treatment.

If you are worried about affording medication, talk to the doctor. They are often aware of how much things cost and can prescribe something that will not be too expensive, even if you're not on health insurance.

Go see a doctor!
posted by aabbbiee at 11:38 AM on April 28, 2010

Have you tried allergy medicine? I used to think I had a sinus/ear infection like that pretty often and docs would say "nope, no infection". One finally told me to take claritin every day for two weeks and see if that helped, and it did! You can get it OTC, so maybe try it before heading back to the doctor (which you should do, when you can, obviously).
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:41 AM on April 28, 2010

Oh geeze, somehow I missed the 10 months thing. Forget what I said, allergies don't last that long. Go to the doctor!
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:42 AM on April 28, 2010

I remember what it's like to be 19 with a tiny income and no health insurance. It sucks. The potential cost of seeing a doc can seem terrible. But really, you have no reason to think this is a financially devastating, major-surgery-sort of situation. The problem may be cheap to fix or it might be expensive, but you won't know until you see a doc. Your current financial circumstances will not last forever, but hearing damage very well might. If you put this off so long that you permanently damage yourself, and then learn that you could've fixed it all (and been comfortable too) for $150, you'll kick yourself. Go.
posted by jon1270 at 12:13 PM on April 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seriously. I am piling on the urgent care wagon.

I am literally about to go to the doctor for something I've been avoiding having treated for a while, and something I am doing to prepare is writing down a timeline of all my symptoms, and how it's gotten worse. It can be really crazy-making to be interrogated for a condition that is making you miserable, so anything you can do ahead of time to prepare to explain your symptoms to someone is going to make it that much better. You can start by printing out this thread and taking it with you.
posted by Tesseractive at 12:40 PM on April 28, 2010

Doctors are not that expensive. Just go dude. Also infections take longer to clear up the longer you wait to get them treated (at least that's what my doctors always claim when I come in with a 5 week old sinus infection)

My thinking about that whole area is that there are lots of weird connections and lumps. I have been freaked out by stuff in the past that the ear/nose/throat doctor was just like "hey whatever that stuff in there is weird" or "yeah that's swollen, it happens". And your anxiety might be making it seem worse than it is. But I am not a doctor! And really what are the chances that you will stop worrying about this until you see the doctor?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:44 PM on April 28, 2010

internet fraud detective squad, station number 9: "Doctors are not that expensive. Just go dude."

(I don't mean to minimize that health care costs a lot, but you've been worrying about this for like a year, how much money are you willing to spend to make a year's worth of worry go away? $100 in that context is a fucking AMAZING deal)

Also the law is changed/changing so see about getting back on your parents' insurance.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:46 PM on April 28, 2010

Seriously, this is not an area you want to fuck around with. With all those systems related to your ears, an infection there can cause serious problem elsewhere. The deafness mentioned above could be the least of your worries.

Doctor, today.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:16 PM on April 28, 2010

Anecdotes: I had a similar feeling after repeatedly jumping off a high cliff into a river one summer. I just assumed it was water blockage and it would go away. After a month I went to urgent care (Aurora Urgent Care centers charge a flat $50 fee around here for people without insurance) and they flushed my ear with a syringe of water and eventually out came a big disgusting glob of wax and hairs and leafy bits from the river that had gotten pushed waaayy in from the jumping and subsequent q-tip attempts to get my ear cleared. I also have year-round allergies, and my ears constantly feel slightly blocked and clicky, so yes, it is possible to have allergies that long, but this sounds more serious.

My sister had an ear infection and couldn't tolerate the antibiotics, so ignored it for months, and finally went back in to discover it was now antibiotic resistant and she might have permanent hearing loss.

So go to an urgent care clinic and see what they can do. Ask them to flush your ears, it won't hurt even if it is an infection and there is no blockage. And if it is an infection, antibiotics are cheap even without insurance.
posted by catatethebird at 7:33 AM on April 29, 2010

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