What a Pain in the... Ear
February 24, 2017 8:05 PM   Subscribe

I've been experiencing hearing loss in my right ear since December 20, 2016. It has been 2 months and some change since my hearing has been normal. Both ear drums are perforated, it feels like it needs to "pop," but that is not an option because of the holes. Has this happened to anyone else? Any suggestions from this community on what to do? Only looking for anecdotal advice or experiences, no medical advice necessary.

I have gone to many ENT doctors, been treated for viruses, I have had sinuses checked, and ears too. One doctor told me it was Eustachian Tube dysfunction, while another said it was not, and we should focus on the left ear and bringing the hearing back in that ear. The hearing loss is not pronounced in the right ear, but because the left ear underperforms and has for all my life. Instead the focus seems to be on grafting the left ear because the docs can actually DO something about a very definitive hearing loss in that ear. The right ear is uncomfortable, feels like there is pressure there, there is a throbbing like a muscle spasm of sorts (Not pulsative tinnitus), the throbbing comes and goes. I will be trying acupuncture next week. Buzzing in the ear comes and goes.

I rinse my sinuses daily, i purchased a steam humidifier for the bedroom. I just am about to lose my mind. I've tried supplements, a steroidal shot in my jaw, antibiotics, ear drops, vitamins, heat and cold compresses, combed medical bulletin boards for information, etc. My parents have ear issues, too. I do not have vertigo...or dizziness...yet. Hopefully that holds.

Anyone else deal with something like this? Does or did it go away? Obviously, all I am seeking is anecdotal advice?
posted by Jewel98 to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
I had something that sounded a lot like this a couple years back and it turned out to be bilateral cholesteatoma. It destroyed my right ossicular chain entirely, but the left had not developed nearly as far. On the right side it had actually destroyed enough bone to penetrate through to my dura mater which was not exactly a great thing to hear.

Because I had no doctor, getting this diagnosed was really tiresome. I went from doctor to doctor and saw two ENTs before one of them suggested a CT scan to "rule out" cholesteatoma. Then it was two surgeries with another scheduled this summer. It took almost two years after that question until someone took me seriously (i.e., I got a family doctor and some continuity of care).

End result is that I have some prosthetic bones in my right ear, two very weird looking eardrums, and constant tinnitus in the right side. Luckily the tinnitus isn't bothersome to me, for which I am glad. My hearing isn't fully normal but it's close enough that I don't need hearing aids.

So I guess my anecdotal advice is get someone to either CT scan or MRI your melon!
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:20 PM on February 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh one piece of anecdotal advice I forgot: I found that an earplug in the ear that felt pressured up really helped relieve me psychologically. Kind of made my brain think "well there is a reason I can't hear shit out of that ear/that ear feels funny so let's not panic". So yeah I spent all of 2014 and half of 2015 with a day-glo earplug in my right ear which was a real conversation starter, let me tell you.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:22 PM on February 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had this as part of a vocal cord dysfunction/ incorrect swallowing. Speech therapy helped me fix the muscles in my throat and mouth that were causing all kinds of referred tightness and drainage issues (I have weird ear canals too). Unfortunately long term I probably need jaw surgery to completely cure it but the throbbing noise in my ear when I lie down is gone and it pops normally now and I can hear out of it fine again.

I did not have TMJ, my jaw is a bit crooked and I held it straight with muscular tension which f'ed everything up in my throat and neck and somehow my ears and sinuses. I did benefit from a course of sinus sprays but only till they began to drain again normally.
posted by fshgrl at 8:30 PM on February 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stenmeyer: I had an MRI and a CT Scan. CT was clear. I knew about the cholesteatoma. MRI showed nothing but it was done of my jaw, not so much the ear. Perhaps, i should go back in for the ear. All they found on the MRI was a small mass on the perotid on the left side.Could it be that the mass on the left could be causing this.

fshgrl: I have been wondering if it is muscular because of stress and sometimes some improvement after massage and movement/change in yoga. It feels better when I am chilled out too, but the hearing is just not there. I see an acupuncturist at a Physical Therapy/Rehab type place next week. Perhaps, it could be the difference i am looking for.

I must also add that i was born with cleft lip and palate. my face is a labyrinth.
posted by Jewel98 at 8:50 PM on February 24, 2017

Given the stress angle, do you clench your teeth at night and/or ear a nightguard? The chronic muscle tension across the entire head can get quite severe if you're clenching in your sleep. If it's a muscle and mechanics issue, this could be a contributing factor.
posted by quince at 10:07 PM on February 24, 2017

I was diagnosed by an allergy doc. As I recall it was a pretty straight forward diagnosis via a breathing test so you could ask if they can do it. Did you do speech therapy as a kid for the cleft palate? Maybe try some of those exercises again is you remember them.
posted by fshgrl at 10:27 PM on February 24, 2017

Could you specify the time course? When did your eardrums become perforated, and did the hearing loss you're experiencing in the right ear occur before or after the perforations?

The pressure and ear drum perforations are consistent with Eustachian Tube dysfunction, generally. There is a pretty reliable test of Eustachian Tube function they should have given you. If your ear drums are perforated, the pressure makes less sense - usually people who feel that their ear needs to 'pop' feel quite a bit better after the ear drum bursts as it relieves the pressure. That you're experiencing aural fullness with perforations makes me concerned it's not a middle ear or Eustachian tube issue, though your lack of any vertigo doesn't fit with something like Meniere's.

I will say that people with histories of cleft palate and lip are at a much higher risk for conductive hearing issues, but the recent onset of the hearing loss is odd.

If you want to do so and have any audiogram or tympanometry results you are welcome to MeMail them to me and I might be able to give you a more thoughtful response.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:37 AM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lutoslawski: I am going to email you. with answers and i have plenty of audiograms.
posted by Jewel98 at 4:09 PM on February 26, 2017

Jewel98: sorry it took me a bit, but check your memail.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:34 PM on March 6, 2017

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