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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Ear Fullness w/ Ringing

01/24/2003

Question:

I am a 29 year old male in athletic shape with no history of sinus infections or allergies or ear problems. About two months ago, I began taking antibiotics (Septra, Cipro, Levaquin) for a period of 30 days for a prostate infection. After about ten days of meds, I began to have ear pressure (especially in left ear), a hissing like throbbing sound which seemed to get worse when in quiet areas and in supine positions, and I began to be sensitized to my ears feeling pressure when in elevators and in cold environs. When I jogged my ears seemed to become clear again but would later feel blocked. I also began to experience a weird sensation in which my ears were sensitive to the frequency noise emanating from televisions. My primary care doc found no fluid but a second opinion by another doc two weeks later noted copious fluid in my noise and perhaps some fluid on my ears. She also told me I had TMJ on the left side which I am scheduled to have a specialist look at in a week. She prescribed FLONASE which I took for two weeks and advised that this condition may take weeks to resolve. This seemed to provide relief and help the right ear which feels normal now, but the left ear persisted with what seems to be an inability to clear (pop), pressure and constant ringing noise. I had concerns about the FLONASE causing insomnia and nervousness and saw an ENT about my condition who advised I stop taking it. He noted that I had no fluid on my ears or signs of infection. A tympanogram and audiology exam noted near perfect readings with no hearing loss. He also said I had a badly deviated septum which I never knew about. He told me that everything appears normal, and gave me CLARINEX to try to see if it helped at all. I haven`t taken any yet. Bottom line at this point, is my left ear continues to feel blocked. It seems to open a bit when I jog but never really feels right. I also still suffer from the hissing/throbbing noise which seems to be centralized in the same ear. I also have stuffiness in my left nostril at times when I awake. My right ear feels fine. I also still experience discomfort/irritation when around tvs. I am at my wits end and KNOW that there must be some solution to this problem which I just haven`t come across yet. I came across your website and found it to be most enlightening. Can you please offer a suggestion as this condition is worrying me tremendously and has persisted for two months?

Answer:

Going to see the ENT and getting the audiogram (hearing test) was the right thing to do. I suspect your problem is in your inner ear (cochlea) rather than middle ear (where kids get ear infections). The nasal steroid spray (flonase) is designed to help with the eustachian tube which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose. The antihistamine (clarinex) can help allergy affecting both middle and inner ear and is worth trying as it has minimal side effects (as long as it doesn`t make you sleepy). You may also want to try a low salt diet (less than 2000 mg sodium per day) and a natural diuretic such as cranberry juice to try to reduce endolymphatic hydrops (fluid pressure in inner ear sometimes referred to as Cochlear Meniere`s syndrome). If you see no improvement in another few months, I would recommend seeing an ENT who specializes in ear problems. Good luck and I hope this helps.

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Response by:

David  L Steward, MD David L Steward, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati