Pop goes... my ear.
August 19, 2007 10:19 AM   Subscribe

My ears keep popping... like when you are in an airplane... except I'm not going anywhere.

About two months ago, my ears started popping constantly. I need to consciously move a muscle to pop them (ie. yawn), but immediately after, they go right back to needing to be popped.

I saw a doctor and she didn't see anything from the ear side, and going up the sinuses, she said it was very slightly inflamed. She put me on some oral steroids for that, but they didn't help. She told me at the time she was diagnosing it something generic, I can't remember the exact term, but she described it as a "something is wrong" type diagnosis, and not a real cause identified.

What can I do to make this stop, it's extremely annoying. Heck, even ideas of what it could be would be helpful.

Do I just need to go to a specialist and see if they can do anything for me?

Other notes:
No pain, just annoyance
Hearing is just fine
I do look like an idiot yawning all the time.
posted by cschneid to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've had this problem for years and years, starting about 10 years ago. My orthodontist at the time said it was due to TMJ problems, which ended up being too expensive to treat. This probably doesn't help at all, but check out TMJ on Dr. Internet and see if any other symptoms apply to you.
posted by sian at 10:46 AM on August 19, 2007

Is there any buzzing in your ears to go along with it? I went to an ENT for the same issue and they did a brain scan to rule out a tumor. Ultimately, they decided it was just a mild allergic reaction, maybe seasonal allergies as it seems to be worse in Spring and Fall. I've read that it can be milk allergy related too, but I've never bothered to give up dairy products .I tried the nasal steroids but it didn't make any difference either.

I've just learned to ignore it, although I probably pop my ears unconsciously and don't even realize it at this point.
posted by COD at 11:20 AM on August 19, 2007

Maybe the Valsalva maneuver can help with the symptoms.
posted by stereo at 12:18 PM on August 19, 2007

Response by poster: Just tried Valsalva maneuver, and while it popped my ears really well, they went right back to their "needs to be popped" state. As far as allergies, I don't think it's that, since I've never had bad allergies at all. Looks like it's time for another appointment with a doctor...
posted by cschneid at 12:56 PM on August 19, 2007

This happens to me all the time because of sinus problems, and the one thing that helps me is decongestants with pseudoephedrine. I know this ingredient is now restricted in the US (I think you have to sign your name somewhere in case you are going to make meth with it, or some dumb thing like that), but it might be worth the hassle to get some. Or if you live close to the Canadian border, you can just pop over here and grab some from any drugstore shelf. I personally like Tylenol Sinus.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:18 PM on August 19, 2007

Great - I just tried the Valsalva and it blocked my ears! [I have a similar problem but not right at the moment...well I didn't until just now]
posted by meech at 2:52 PM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

You should go see a specialist. There are a few good ear, nose, & throat doctors in your area that might be able to help.
posted by lilac girl at 3:00 PM on August 19, 2007

I have lived with the exact symptoms you described for the last twelve years or so. I don't remember exactly how it started, but it was during puberty.

I went to an ear/nose/throat guy about it when I was sixteen. He felt, at least in my case, it indicated my eustachian tubes were closed or blocked. The ear-popping action served to momentarily open them.

He believed my adenoids were swollen from irritation, which was pinching the throat opening of my eustachian tubes closed. He sent me to an allergist to see if mysterious allergies were causing it. He also suggested it would probably help if I quit smoking.

Ultimately, my options were:

- A semi-expensive surgery to sink a little bead into each eardrum, so there is a pinhole in each eardrum equalizing the pressure.

- To just live with it. Minimize exposure to allergens (turns out I had a severe-ass allergy to dust mites and cats) and quit smoking. This is what I did. You think you will never get used to it, but after a few years I don't even notice until someone reminds me. (thanks, jerk!)

At first I would yawn or swallow constantly to "pop" them. At this point I can simply flex a little muscle in my mouth/throat/tongue area, and that pops them. I am an olympic-grade ear popper.

However, it is probably worth a trip to an ear/nose/throat specialist in case your situation is different than mine.
posted by churl at 3:22 PM on August 19, 2007

PS be careful with the Valsalva maneuver linked above -- my ear/nose/throat guy had me try doing that *very gently*, and I found it painful.
posted by churl at 3:25 PM on August 19, 2007

I'd like to mention that there's a second thing you can do--I forgot the name of it--that has you holding your nose and swallowing rather than exhaling (swallowing maybe twice, rarely three times). The Valsalva maneuver hurts my ears sometimes (chronic allergies, chronic congestion), but this other maneuver doesn't.

This manuever's mentioned in the wikipedia, but just on the off-chance someone missed it....
posted by Tuwa at 5:26 PM on August 19, 2007

This sounds like something I have had for a few years. The ear, nose and throat specialist I saw said that a muscle in the ear called the tensor tympani is connected to the same nerve that muscles in the face are connected to, so when muscles in the face get "triggered" the muscles in the ear do as well causing the pops.

The specialist said surgery could fix it.

(As always: IANAD)
posted by dohmer at 10:28 PM on August 19, 2007

I've had it for years too. I quit smoking cigarettes a few years ago, and that helped. But I still have to use the V maneuver during allergy season. I've also learned to pop them with by contracting muscles in my ears. At least I think that's what I think I'm doing!

No medications - including allergy or nasal inflamation meds (like nasonex and flonase) - have ever had any effect on the popping.

Mostly, I've just gotten used to it.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:21 AM on August 20, 2007

« Older Is it safe?   |   Why was Cy Young so awesome? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.