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thumping in ear
liketogarden posted:
For the past year and a half , roughly once a week, I have a thumping noise in my left ear. It lasts about two minutes with after effects that last for another one to three minutes. The thumping starts out quietly, reaches a crescendo (sp?) at about one minute, tapers off, then stops abruptly. The noise is not in sync with my heartbeat. The after effects are difficult to describe - sometimes there is a buzzing feeling in the left side of my neck and the left shoulder. Other times I feel off balance. I've been to two ear specialists, my neurologist (stroke) and a neurological ear specialist referred to me by my neurologist. No one knows what is wrong yet they say there is nothing to worry about.. Yes, I can live with being kind of incapacitated for five minutes every week but I would prefer not to if at all possible. Any ideas?
NancyJWT responded:
Welcome to the Weird, Weird World of Mysterious Ear Symptoms That No Doctor Can Explain!

Sounds like you've been to the right kind of specialists. And stumped 'em.

I have no ideas for you, and there is probably nothing you can do about this--except to just accept it as your friendly neighborhood ear-thumping.

You mentioned stroke; did this start with any temporal relation to your stroke? Could the stroke have damaged a nerve related to your ear?

I've heard a lot of strange symptoms from other people with ear/neuro issues over the years, and I can tell you that there is a LOT the doctors simply can't explain.

OK, if you don't mind, I'll see your weird ear symptom and raise you one. Just by way of illustration that there are other ear-weirdos out there.

First--I occasionally get a fast, staccato clicking in my left ear concurrent with painful, strong pressure-jabs just BEHIND the ear. These episodes last a few seconds to a minute or so. The neurologist who specialized in ears just said "I don't know"--not even a speculation. (I had bigger fish to fry with him--dizziness, hearing loss, etc.)

Second--for about 4 days several years ago, I would get a strong, fast thumping in my right ear--rising and tapering off, similar to what you describe--BUT this was always in conjunction with an episode of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). When I'd tip my head to the left, after a few seconds the ceiling would appear to be jerking up and down (as it does with ordinary BPPV), and the right-ear thumping began, intensified, and ended exactly at the same time as the ceiling-jerking (but not in exact sync with it). Doctors had no clue, no comment. It is NOT a normal part of BPPV. But I cured myself with the Epley maneuver at home. Never any thumping since.

(Well, except recently the right ear started thumping a little when I exert my left hand, as when opening a jar. I guess that makes three weirdnesses...)

I theorize these are short circuits in my brainstem, where your cranial nerves controlling hearing, balance, facial and ear muscles, etc. originate. Nothing showed up on MRI, but my auditory brainstem testing (done after a sudden hearing loss in my left ear) was highly abnormal on both sides.

You might have some kind of short circuit with your nerves, too. The thumping sounds like possibly a stapedial spasm? If you had a stroke, which side was it on (just out of curiosity)? Oh, BTW the best theory for my sudden hearing loss was an inner-ear stroke when I sneezed hard.

I'm not a medical professional, of course, but when the doctors don't have an explanation for us, we have to make one up in order to continue normal life!

Rod Moser, PA, PhD responded:
Although there can be many different causes, one possibility for clicking or rapid thumping in the ears is a condition called Myoclonus.

Those three tiny ear bones in your middle ear (the area on the other side of your eardrum) have muscles (the stapedial and tensor tympani muscle) that are attached to them. Like any muscle, they can go into spasm and rapidly twitch (myoclonus). Then this happens in the ear, it will cause the eardrum to vibrate like a drum, resulting in a clicking, thumping, flapping, or even a machine-like sound. The muscles in the throat and palate (the tensor veli palatini muscle) can also be contributory.

If you, indeed, are diagnosed with myoclonus, this may not an easy problem to fix. Surgery is sometimes performed to cut those muscles, or the muscle-paralyzing botulism toxin (Botox) is injected into them in an effort to correct more serious cases. An ENT sub-specialist (a neurotologist) is the best person to evaluate and manage this difficult-to-treat disorder.
bevybab replied to Rod Moser, PA, PhD's response:
thanks Doc
I am having this problem now also. The thumping in my right eear is actually driving me mad. I am having mad anxiety attacks behind it. Someone told me it can be because my blood pressure is up. The last time I checked I didn't have high blood pressure. So, how true is this?
Rod Moser, PA, PhD replied to bevybab's response:
Check your blood pressure changes all of the time, however, thumping in your ear -- unless it is pulsatile (the exact same rate and rhythm of your heartbeat -- it is not likely that an elevated blood pressure is the sole, underlying causes. Other reasons should be investigated.

You need to see an ENT for a diagnostic workup, and of course, someone needs to address your anxiety, since this undiagnosed thumping appears to be contributing to your anxiety attacks.

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