Ever since a thunderstorm last June, I’ve been experiencing symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction on a daily basis: clicking in my ears every time I swallow, intermittent muffled hearing in both ears, a feeling of fullness in both ears, and an intermittent feeling of pressure similar to the pressure that one gets when flying. The left ear seems to be affected more so than the right. Initially, I saw my GP who treated me with antibiotic ear drops twice, and then oral antibiotics once, all in a period of two months. In addition, I began taking claritin or other allergy medications last summer thinking that maybe I had developed new allergies to something. I then saw an ENT in August who diagnosed me with “very mild eustachian tube dysfunction” and put me on an inhaled nasal steroid. It did nothing. When I followed up with the ENT 2 months later, he said that there was no evidence of eustachian tube dysfunction and that the medication must be working well. Yet, I was still having symptoms. He referred me for a sinus CT scan and a consult with an allergist. The allergist determined that I have no allergies, environmental or otherwise. He (the allergist, who previously worked in an ENT office), felt that based on the symptoms I was describing, I had significant eustachian tube dysfunction and mentioned that I might want to try tubes in my ears. In the interim, the CT scan came back negative. When I followed up with my ENT, he scoped my eustachian tubes/sinuses and found nothing. His answer was “very mild eustachian tube dysfunction for which there is no treatment”.
Since last June I’ve had five (yes, FIVE!) audiograms done. On the days when I’m experiencing the above symptoms severely, the hearing in my right ear is about 10 dB worse than my audiogram below, and the hearing in my left ear is about 10-15 dB worse. But nobody seems to have any answers. My audiologist recommended I get a second opinion, as the intermittent hearing loss in my left ear is starting to affect my ability to function daily. She didn’t want to sell me a hearing aid for my left ear because she wasn’t convinced the hearing loss seen on the various tests was accurate based on whatever medical issue might be occurring. So for now, I remain unaided in the left ear. (Of note, the audiogram in my signature was done on a “moderately bad hearing day”. On a good day, my hearing ranges between about 15-20 dB in my left ear.)
So…now that spring has finally arrived, the symptoms, which have persisted daily since last June, are much, much worse! My left ear feels clogged and intermittently drains clear fluid at night. I’ve been told I don’t have an infection. The clogged feeling is worst upon waking. Usually it takes about an hour of frequent swallowing, yawning, and coughing to get my left ear working. But for that first hour after waking, I’m having immense difficulty hearing out of it. I keep assuming the hearing in that ear is declining. But then I have a day like yesterday, where I was literally hearing a pin drop in the other room, my daughter’s voice was perfectly clear, and the TV was on a much lower volume than what I normally use, and I think something else is going on. I just don’t know what it is.
I’ve recently been thinking that I have TMJ. At very least, I clench my teeth at night, and I’ve noticed myself doing it during the day as well. My jaw is almost always sore, and I’ve noticed that my hearing in both ears is (subjectively) worse on days when I’m anxious and seem to be clenching more. So I’m booked in to see my dentist next week about TMD. Could the clicking, intermittent muffled hearing, and all of the symptoms I described above be related to TMJ? Or should I be looking at something else. I’m on a wait list to see a otologist, but the appointment won’t likely be until December… In the interim, I have no idea what to do. I feel like I need a second hearing aid on my bad days, but then I have really, really good days when my left ear seems fine! I don’t want to spend money on a hearing aid if the issue is a medical one that can be corrected, but I just don’t know where to go because nobody seems to think anything is wrong other than “very mild eustachian tube dysfunction.” Does anyone have any thoughts? Are there treatments I can be trying at home to confirm a diagnosis of some sort? Should I be looking into alternative health care? I’ve tried chiropractic care and massage for very tight muscles in my neck and upper back. Several sessions of each did nothing. But I’m feeling lost. Every single day, though, I usually have at least a few minutes where the hearing in my left ear clears up, which makes me think that the current level of hearing loss isn’t permanent. Or am I just wishfully thinking? I don’t know anymore.