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Ears full, crackling, and hurting
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jm001 posted:
I have a lot of crackling in both my ears that is mostly when I swallow that seems to sound worse when I take Sudafed, that my ENT advised me to take. I started with a cold 6 weeks ago that congested both my ears and caused major pressure and popping, the popping eventually turned to a crackling sound, and I feel like it became more prevalent after the dose of Claritin that my doctor advised me to try...I'm not sure if it dried any residual fluid out and that's what I am hearing? The pressure in both my ears seems to fluctuate and when I drink hot liquids or inhale steam, the crackling sounds become more "soggy" sounding if that makes sense. It feels like my ears are both wet on the inside and I woke up this morning with my right ear throbbing and at times, one of my ears feels so full that it feels like it will burst, it seems to fluctuate between my ears and depending on what side I sleep on, it feels like the "fluid" settles on that side...I can feel something moving around that feels like fluid. I have been to 3 ENTs, 2 of which did hearing tests and pressure tests. Both said they could not "see" fluid in my middle ear, but one said that the pressure test indicated that there could be some there that might be causing ETD and the crackling sounds. The last few days I started also to experience some dizziness and vertigo. I have already taken 5-6 different otc meds and decongestants, a course of antibiotics, steam treatments, and astepro (which made my ears feel more clogged). The clogged ear feeling and the pain is really frustrating and the crackling sound is enough to drive you insane. I feel like my life is pretty limited right now as I cannot focus on anything else right now because of this discomfort. I am out of ideas of what to do or who to see about this. Is it really possible for this to go away by itself after 6 weeks? I keep fearing that I will wake up deaf one of these days as the crackling sounds are getting louder, does this mean anything? So far, all I've received from the ENT visits is a pile of medical bills. Neither thought that I should do anything about it despite the fact that I told them I was experiencing pain....basically, they told me to wait it out, but my symptoms seem to get worse with time, not better, so that does not seem to be the answer to me. Any advice you can offer on how to approach my situation? I feel like most ENTs treat based on trial and error as opposed to trying to diagnose the problem...are there some tests I should request? Isn't it possible that this could have escalated to an inner ear issue? I usually don't go to the doctor right away, but this time I did because of the intense ear pain...I have never had an ear infection and am almost 40. The ENTs I went to acted like an inner ear infetion isn't possible, is it? Also wondering if you have any feedback on the ear popper device, I am thinking about trying to get one.
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Rod_Moser_PA_PhD responded:
I really don't know where to start....so many questions; most of which, I cannot answer. I will do the best that I can under the serious limitations posed by the Internet.

1. There are many things that can cause ear crackling and fullness. ETD and middle ear fluid is just two of them. Inner ear problems are another. The inner ear cannot be SEEN on a routine exam by anyone. When you have dizziness/vertigo, this would be one clue to point toward the inner ear, and not the middle ear as a source for your symptoms. So, I do think the inner ear cannot be eliminated at this point. Crackling can be a form of tinnitus. You have already seen three ENTs. I have no idea if a 4th ENT would delve a little deeper in your case, but what other choice do you have?

2. Waiting it out? Knowing that the body has a remarkable way of healing most things in life, that would not be an inappropriate choice, however, I have no idea if waiting longer will result in a cure. Inner ear problems are VERY difficult to diagnose...and even more difficult to treat.

Hold off on the Ear Popper at this point. Assuming you have an inner ear disorder (we don't really know at this point), the Ear Popper is not going to help.
 
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jm001 responded:
Thank you so much for the quick reply, I really appreciate it. I will be going back to an ENT (one I already went to, that advised me to wait it out), as the availability of ENT doctors with available appointments is very limited in my area.

Starting yesterday, I went back on steam inhalation every few hours and have been doing them all day today as well. A short while after, it feels as though something is draining into my throat...could this be the fluid/mucous in my ears...it does have a very bitter taste to it and I am finding that as I inhale the steam, if I turn my head so that one of my ears is facing up, it feels like something is draining into my throat, am I imagining this, or could it be the junk in my ears trying to drain? Can inhaling steam make things worse? I was thinking about sitting in the steam room at my gym also.

When I get to the ENT next week, do you know what kind of testing I can request to try and determine whether this is an inner or middle ear issue? The dizziness and vertigo has been better today after the steam, I notice that it's more so when I bend down and get up really quick, such as when loading and unloading the front load wash machine....would this be indicative of what part of my ears are affected?

Thanks again.
 
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Rod_Moser_PA_PhD responded:
The eustachian tubes can drain a tiny amount of fluid into your throat from the middle ear, but the lumen (inside diameter) is about the size of a hair. I doubt that "ear drainage" is what you are experiencing. You may be experiencing drainage, but not from your ears.

Leave the testing decisions up to the ENT. They will need to do an appropriate examination first to know what kind, if any, tests are needed. Vertigo caused by positional changes could be inner ear....or not. For instance, many people experience orthostatic changes, such as getting lightheaded when the get up too quickly. So, there are many considerations....allow your doctor to do his/her job and make sure to ASK YOUR QUESTIONS directly to the ENT, and expect a logical explanation.


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