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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Unexplainable Plugged Ear

11/06/2000

Question:

Three days ago I woke up with my left ear feeling "plugged up". I try "popping" my ears by holding my nose and by yawning, but that doesn`t take the pressure in it away. I figured it would eventually go away. The next day I tried cleaning it with Maurine Ear Wax Removal Kit, but no wax came out. Soon after a sharp, constant pain occured inside my ear. I went to an ear, nose, and throat doctor who checked out my ears and said they both were as clean as a whistle and there was no visual signs of swelling. He gave me a pain killer for the pain in my ear and advised me to take Afrin 3 times a day. The pain did go away but my ear is still "plugged". I am experiencing no cold symptoms (ie. stuffy nose, congested sinuses, runny nose, coughing, etc.) and just woke up with pressure in my ear. I wasn`t around any loud noises prior to that morning either. Do you have any advise for me or sugguestions as to what it might be?

Answer:

If you are still having problems after using the afrin and giving it some time I would go back and see your ENT or get another opinion. Performing a hearing test and tympanogram may be helpful too.

Eustachian tube dysfunction is high on the list of causes. But it is a little unusual to have that suddenly without a cold, allergies or other trigger. Sometimes throat or inner ear problems can present with ear fullness, pressure or pain too.

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Response by:

John H Greinwald, Jr, MD, FAAP John H Greinwald, Jr, MD, FAAP
Associate Professor of Otolaryngology and Pediatrics
Director of the Auditory Genetics Laboratory
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati