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Ear clogging after a flu
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supHumanity posted:
Hello Doctor.

I have had a cold with fever and body ache at a point about a week ago. I did not experience any nasal congestion or runny nose - nor did I feel any coughing or such side effects. After about 3 days my fever and all symptoms pretty much completely disappeared but one morning I woke up with a pain in my ear. The pain lasted a few hours [possibly 3?> and it finally went away but ever since that time I have experienced a clogged ear and slight ringing.

I do not feel any pain. When I swallow or yawn I do feel my ear crackle as if it were to pop but it never fully does. When I tilt my head I do feel as if something shifts in the ear and sometimes I can hear better.

This has been going on for roughly 5 days.

During my flu I took a lot of baths as they helped my body aches - could this just simply be water trapped in my ear? Also could water remain trapped in ym ear without evaporating for a period of time such as 5 days?

I have a scheduled appointment with my doctor but unfortunately I have to wait until monday.

I'm curious if there are any steps I could take at home to relieve this situation myself before the doctor visit?

Thank you.
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Rod_Moser_PA_PhD responded:
It is very premature to suggest treatments since you really have not been properly examined or diagnosed. There can be many causes to account for your symptoms, and each cause would have a specific treatment.

A common cause could be ETD- eustachian tube dysfunction. There are two tiny ventilation and drainage tubes that run from our middle ear space (the area behind the eardrum) to the back of our throats (near the adenoids) called the eustachian tubes. The main purpose of these ventilation tubes is to make sure the middle ear space is filled with AIR at the same atmospheric pressure as the outside atmosphere. As tiny as these little tubes are, they tend to do a great job. However, they are prone to becoming ?dysfunctional?. Colds, allergies, environmental irritants, sinus infections, tonsillitis, cigarette smoke, airplane flights, driving in a mountainous area, etc. all can the eustachian tubes to malfunction. When this happens, fluid and/or changes in air pressure will occur in the sensitive middle ear space. This will compromise your hearing (stuffy, full feeling), and your ears may feel a need to ?pop.

Most cases of ETD will self-resolve in a week or so. Although controversial, decongestants (like pseudoephedrine) can help, but not all people can medically use them and this is far from a miracle cure. It is always best to check with your own medical provider first. Prescription nasal corticosteroid sprays have also be used, especially in people with allergies.

You are correct, a wax impaction can cause these symptoms too. Since neither one of us can look inside your ear to make that call, you may have to wait until Monday. I am reluctant to suggest an ear lavage to remove the wax, since another possible cause would be a middle ear infection (even if you are not having pain).

Hang in there if you can, or go to an urgent care facility for a more timely examination. I am sorry your doctor makes you wait this long.
 
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supHumanity responded:
If it does turn out to be ETD - what is the typical treatment for this condition? Will the doctor put anything in my air or will it simply be medication for me to take over a period of time?

I had bought drops for swimmers ear - an alcoholo solution that is meant to dry out your ear if theres water stuck in it but I am reluctant to use them if this is not the case.

At first I thought it was a wax problem so I tried the remedy of pouring a little bit of hydrogen peroxide in my ear and keeping it there for 10 minutes. My condition did not worsen nor better after this "treatment" though so I assumed it was not wax blockage.

I am waiting for the visit but I suppose I'm also looking for some sort of re-assurance for the mean time and maybe explanation to help understand why this might have happened.
 
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Rod_Moser_PA_PhD responded:
The basic treatment of ETD was mentioned in my posting. Since you really do not know exactly what is going on in your ear, it is not a good idea to put swimmer's ear medications (probably won't help anyway) in your ears.

I am not sure what kind of reassurance you would like, but ETD (if this is what you have) is usually not serious and in most cases, will self-resolve in time. Time is the big issue since it is also not predictable how long it will take your body to cure itself.
 
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JohnnyVDM responded:
I have the exact same problem.

My bout with the flu lasted almost 2 weeks, and involved a lot of nasal and chest congestion. About halfway through I woke up with ear pain (after a very weird ear-related dream), that went away after a few hours. It has now been 2 weeks since that morning, and my ears are still feeling clogged and ringing, and the loss of hearing is preventing me from working.

Strangely enough, the position of my head actually affects my hearing. If I look up, it almost feels as if something swishes partially out of the way and I can hear slightly better. Once or twice, while lying on my side, the ear facing down suddenly cleared. I could hear and the ringing in that ear stopped. However, after sitting up for a few minutes it "clogged" back up again.

My original thought was wax blockage, but I went to a doctor who told me my ears were clear of wax. He then referred me to the ENT department who are booked until January 2010.

Should I try another hospital? Is this something that could clear up on it's own? Could it involve serious complications if left unexamined? I apologize for any redundancy.
 
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Rod_Moser_PA_PhD responded:
January of 2010!! By all means, try and find another ENT to see and examine you sooner. That is a ridiculous advanced appointment...8 months! Even if you have to drive to another town, you should be able to get a sooner appointment.

I really have no way of knowing if your symptoms will clear on their own, or if you will have complications. I do not know enough about you and your case to make that determination. Sorry.
 
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supHumanity responded:
Well I am not sure if this will help the other person but my issue is slowly getting better day by day. I have the exact same symptoms - I work as a manager in a movie theater and I often "thread projectors" which means I have to bend down low and put my head sideways and I usually hear better that way - then after I stand back up straight I feel as if something is settling back in to clog the ear.

It's been a week and my condition improved a lot - I still have my appointment on monday but by then it might be gone almost 95%.

So I guess hang in there - it might get better but I guess try to find a doctor.


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