Specialist appointment part 2: Ear bubbles, a blocked nose… and a plan

…The specialist only briefly addressed my noise sensitivity. It had been my understanding from my previous appointment, with the previous specialist, that the reason for me meeting with this particular Ears Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor, was to receive some sound therapy. This therapy would help retrain the auditory processing centre of my brain to accept everyday sounds. Instead of therapy, I was given a suggestion of a procedure I could perform by myself. The advice I was given during this consultation was to subject my hearing ear to noise or music, at a volume level which I found too loud, for a period of 20 minutes. I was to do this 3 times a day. I was given the example of listening to nature sounds on my headphones, whilst keeping the volume as loud as I could possibly bear it. The ENT specialist told me that eventually I would be able to turn the volume up to higher levels. He told me that there were special hearing centres I could go to, but these would cost money, and it was customary and also effective for patients to carry out this treatment themselves. I found it curious that in the same appointment in which I had been told to avoid loud noises in order to protect my only hearing ear, I was also told to subject the same ear to noise that would cause me discomfort.

After feeling yet a little more deflated on realizing the only therapy or support this specialist was going to offer me, was the small piece of advice he’d just given me, and not a series of therapy sessions, which I had been hoping for, I started to hastily ask my friend to enquire about a few more issues; as the feeling of outstaying our allotted time started to encroach upon us.

I asked my friend, who had accompanied me to help with translation, to question the specialist about the operation I had been told about months ago, which would straighten my nasal septum, in order to help me breathe more easily. The specialist had no visible response to this enquiry, and he continued scribbling notes into my medical history booklet. With perseverance, intent on maximizing my time with the consultant, I asked my friend to mention the feeling of pressure I have in my ears, and about my bouts of dizziness, and to ask if there was anything I could do to relieve these symptoms. Without raising his head to acknowledge us, he pointed to an examination chair across the room from where we were sitting, and he mumbled something inaudible. I obediently went and sat in the chair. I had sat in this chair before. I hoped that I wasn’t going to have the customary experience of having a viewing tube inserted into my nose, for the third time. The specialist put on a head mirror and some surgical gloves, and then he reached for an examination tool. This tool appeared less sophisticated than the viewing tube. The tool resembled a pair of metal pliers; with thinner handles, and two hooked jaws. He inserted the contraption into my nose, with both of the metal hooks sliding into each nostril respectively. He swiftly and forcefully lifted the handles of the device upwards at an angle, to view inside my nose; examining the structure of my septum. He said that my nostril was completely blocked on the left side, due to the deviation of my septum. I already knew this. I have been unable to breathe through my left nostril for as long as I can remember. I had also had this same discussion, two times previously, in this same room, with two other former specialists. This information was in my medical notes, in the booklet that was sitting on the desk in this same room.

Then, without further explanation, I was asked to leave to room. I was instructed to go, for perhaps my fifth visit over the past year or so, to have a tympanometry test. A tympanometry test is often used to assess the function of the middle ear. The results of tympanometry are represented on a graph called a tympanogram. This is a graphic representation of the relationship between the air pressure in the ear canal and the movement of the eardrum, and the tiny bones in the air-filled middle ear space. When the eardrum is disturbed by a sound, part of the sound is absorbed and sent through the middle ear while the other part of the sound is reflected. The information derived from tympanometry provides information regarding middle ear function, especially Eustachian tube function.

The nurse who carried out the test was a nurse I was familiar with. She was friendly and jolly and seemed intent on carefully explaining everything to me. In the interest of respecting her, much appreciated, caring nature, I acted as though I was unfamiliar with the procedure. She kindly explained the process to me, through my friend; my translator. An ear probe was promptly placed, first into my hearing ear, and then into my deaf ear, to test the responses. As the probe in my hearing ear caused the air pressure in my ear canal to change, I heard some low-pitched tones. When my deaf ear was tested, it remained silent, with only the sound of tinnitus prevailing. While the pressure was changing, measurements of my eardrum’s movement were being taken and recorded. The test was over in a few minutes. When the nurse examined my results, she scrunched her face into a painful expression. She asked me if I have the constant feeling of being in an aeroplane. Yes! I have an unceasing pressure in my left ear, and though not as pronounced, in my right ear too. It is the feeling of pressure, comparable to being in an aeroplane and not being able to pop my ears. I also have the occasional sound of little bubbles similar to those in the foam made by bubble bath, or bubbles in fizzy drinks traveling to the surface, escaping into the air with a with a crackling sound. These sensations are sometimes accompanied by a sharp deep and momentary pain. Yes! This pressure is causing me constant discomfort, and is more difficult to manage than my actual hearing loss. Yes! This pressure I feel is what I’ve told every specialist about. Yes! This wonderful nurse had immediately identified this as a significant source of discomfort, and was showing empathy towards my situation. She was the first person in over a year of consultations, to not just read my results and identify a problem, but to actually show some understanding of the unpleasantness I was experiencing.

I returned to the consultation room, and showed the doctor my tympanogram. After regarding it for a moment, he told me with confidence that the reason I have the feeling of pressure in my ears is because I can’t breathe properly. This is not what I’d been told before. I had been told that there could possibly be a link between my inability to breathe effectively through my left nostril, and my ear pressure. I had believed that the pressure was a consequence of my hearing loss. The onset of the feeling of pressure had, after all, coincided exactly with the moment I lost my hearing. I told him that it had not been communicated previously to me that the issues with my nose were the certain cause of the discomfort in my ears. He repeated with vehement assurance that the pressure in my ears was a direct result of my difficulty breathing. This was something new to me.

The specialist then questioned me about my sleeping habits. I told him how I have struggled to sleep, to the best of my recollection, for most of my adult life. I told him how I find it difficult to fall asleep, due to problems breathing. I told him how my brain seems to wake me up just as the rest of my body feels like it’s going to sleep. I told him that I am only able to sleep effectively whilst lying on my left side. If I sleep on my right side; the side of my functioning airway, the nostril closes up which means I can’t breathe at all through my nose. He told me that I needed the septoplasty. This operation would straighten my septum, allowing for better airflow through my nose.

There are long term effects of a deviated septum. In my case, having a deviated septum has meant that not only have I had many sinus infections, but I also often get throat infections; as I regularly breathe through my mouth. The blocked nasal breathing due to septal deviation also has a negative effect on the Eustachian tube, which means drainage from the nose is not efficient. If what the specialist was saying was correct, having the operation could lead to better tubal drainage from my nose, and as a result this could relieve some of the pressure I am feeling in my ears.

My hope for this operation is that it will help me feel more comfortable whilst sleeping at night, as I will be able to breathe through both nostrils. After time I should start breathing through my nose more during the night, and therefore shouldn’t wake up as much; as a result of having a dry mouth, or as a response to my body warning me that I am not managing to get enough oxygen into my lungs. In consequence, I hope I will also feel more refreshed when I wake up. My most cautious hope however, is for an eventual reduction in the pressure I am feeling in my ears.

And so, after over a year of rapid changes of emotion, I am once again feeling hopeful…

Author: myhearinglossstory

Hi, My name is Carly. I am 37 years old and I am currently living in Spain. I am originally from a small seaside town in Yorkshire called Bridlington, and have also lived in China and Thailand. I am an Early Years primary school teacher, and have been teaching for more than 12 years. I love walking in the countryside, getting lost in Madrid, going out for breakfast, taking photos, listening to music, storytelling podcasts, baking, running, drinking wine, and eating spicy food. In August 2016, I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. I started this blog as a way to inform my friends and family about my progress, for anyone else who is going through a similar experience as me, or for anybody who is interested in learning about this type of hearing loss, and the way it can affect everyday life.

18 thoughts on “Specialist appointment part 2: Ear bubbles, a blocked nose… and a plan”

    1. Hi Al. How are you? Yes, I’m very happy to be able to be finally offered this operation. I have had the pre-ops already, so I’m just waiting now…I think the hospital will call soon after Christmas to tell me the date 🙂
      Hope you are well. Best wishes
      Your blogging buddy 🙂

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  1. Hello Carly. When I read your accounts of medical consultations I nearly always want to give the doctor a good shake and a compulsory course on good bedside manners. Three cheers for the tympanometry nurse though. It’s good that something that might help with the pressure has been identified. Sending Yorkshire love and hugs. Vera.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Vera. How are you doing? I hope you’re healing well and feeling ok. Yes, the consultatants really do seem to lack bedside manner!! But I am happy that I have been offered the operation…fingers crossed it will be of some help to make me feel more comfortable.
      Hugs to you too xx

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  2. What with the holidays I expect you have not heard of when you will be going in for your operation dear friend. Anyway, good luck and I hope that the operation will help. Happy New Year dear Carly 🙂 ❤

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  3. I too have been having ear bubbles in one of my ears (this is the first time it has happened). It feels like half air/half water is trapped somewhere in there. Whenever I moved certain muscles in my head or layed on the ear it would hurt. I think it was a mixture of cleaning my ear too agressively and using earplugs indiscriminately. Like when you accidentally roll over in bed with a reusable earplug in, the pressure can damage the ear. It lasted only 2 days however.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Brian. Yes, it sounds like you have had a similar experience to the one I have. Different head positions cause different sensations and sometimes pain.
      Thank you for reading and for commenting.
      Best wishes
      Carly

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      1. Hello Huma
        I had hoped that the septoplasty would enable me to breathe through both nostrils and have better nasal drainage, which in turn might help with the constant pressure I have in my left ear. The septoplasty operation was successful in straightening my septum, however unfortunately it was found that my nasal passage is too narrow (and collapses on itself when I try and breathe). Basically, I now have a straight septum, but still cannot breathe in through my left nostril. I am currently consulting with a plastic surgeon who will be operating on me sometime next year to widen my nasal passage to help me breathe. I am not expecting this operation to help reduce my tinnitus or to help me regain any hearing, but I still have hope for a reduction in the ear pressure I have.
        I am interested, have you also experienced sudden hearing loss?
        Take care
        Carly

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      2. OMG Carly, I have the exact same symptoms, except that it’s my right ear and right nostril that’s blocked and deviated.

        I have a pluggy sensation in my left ear too lately, but hearing is perfect.

        I have the same fluid like feeling you describe. Every time I take a really deep breath in, I can feel fluid/air bubbles being sucked inward, and the feeling of the bubble being pushed outward only happens when I perform the Valsalva maneuver. Both my ears have felt this bubble like sensation prior to my hearing loss as well (and I used to perform the Valsalva maneuver very often in the past), but I can no longer feel it in my right (affected) ear. Can you tell me the procedures you’ve gone through? I’m currently taking amiloride 5 mg a day, a diuretic that my ENT prescribed. She said I might have endolymphatic hydrops. I have experienced vertigo only once so far after the hearing loss and it lasted for 2-3 minutes (I was severely dehydrated at the time, so I don’t think the vertigo is related). I’m 26 years old, have a lot of energy and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to feel better and not lose my good ear.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi there karthikgkn,
        Sorry to hear you are going through all this. I’m wondering how much hearing you lost in your affected ear?
        I too cannot clear the clogged feeling and the pressure in my deaf ear using the Valsalva manoeuvre, since my hearing loss.
        You asked about the procedures I’ve gone through….Initially I had an MRI scan to check that I didn’t have a tumour, I had blood tests to check for a virus or other health issues. I was given anti-viral medication (in case a virus had caused the hearing loss), and also corticosteroids. I had three injections of steroids into my ear. I didn’t have any improvement in my symptoms following any of this treatment.
        I have also been told I have endolymphatic hydrops/cochlear hydrops/Menieres disease – basically an issue with the fluid in my inner ears. To try and treat this I was given a medicine called Serc (its a vasodilator) – to try and help the pressure in my ear. I also tried diuretics. Unfortunately I couldn’t tolerate either medication – these seem to be the two main things people are given to control their symptoms.
        I was told to try to follow a low-sodium diet and drink lots of water.
        My hearing loss was when i was 34, a bit older than you, but I understand the frustration it can cause – it’s not the kind of thing you expect to happen when you’re young…
        I am currently on no medication, but do try to eat less salt. I find that when i eat salt, the tinnitus gets worse and so does the pressure in my ear, and then i feel dizzy.
        I tried lots of alternative therapy to try and help reduce the feeling of pressure in my ear – physiotherapy, osteopathy, acupuncture etc.
        The thing that I have found that provides a little relief is going to a chiropractor. I have neck and jaw issues, and i feel these all seem to be connected to the pressure in my ear. When the chiropractor does an adjustment on my neck, I feel a little more relaxed in my ear – more ‘open’ – it’s hard to describe.
        I’m hoping you are receiving good treatment and have support of friends and family.
        Please feel free to contact me if you have questions. I’d be interested to know if you have any improvement in your symptoms.
        Best of wishes
        Carly

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      4. Hi Carly,
        I’m almost deaf in my right ear now. The audiometry curve is between 50-60 dB on all frequencies, it’s a flat line. My speech recognition was 8% about 3 months ago, and it appears my brain adapted to the loss and the speech recognition rate improved to 52% in a recent test (at the 60 dB level). Is your audiometry curve any different? I’m wearing an amplifying hearing aid, but it doesn’t improve speech recognition, it only helps me with localization because I can hear fine in the good ear.

        I’ve experienced nerve twitching in my forehead, occasional stabbing pain inside my brain and pain in my scalp. Are these symptoms you experienced too during the initial stages of the hearing loss? If yes, what did your doctors tell you? I also experience pain inside both ears. Also, did you look up or discuss surgical options for treatment, like endolymphatic sac decompression?

        I will try visiting a chiropractor to see if it helps, thanks for sharing that! I have long-standing neck issues too and I visited a TMJ specialist about potential jaw issues, who told me I don’t have TMJ but I do have jaw muscle myalgia (which he said has nothing to do with the hearing loss), which I could get treatment for.

        Please stay in touch! There’s also a nice Facebook support group for cochlear hydrops, please consider joining it!

        Best wishes!
        Karthik

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Hi there Karthik,
        How you doing? I am really glad to read that your speech recognition has improved so much, that’s great news 🙂 My audiogram curve is all between 80db and 110db, so I really don’t have any functional hearing in my left ear.

        I haven’t experienced any stabbing pain in my brain. I have had occasional nerve twitching in my forehead, but nothing much. My main symptoms are ear pressure. i also have neck and jaw pain, and feel these may be related.

        I have read about endolymphatic sac decompression and it sounds like it may help get rid of the pressure i feel in y deaf ear – this would be amazing! however, i haven’t been offered this operation. Have you?

        I am interested to see if you have any relief from your symptoms following a chiropractic adjustment. Please let me know!

        What is the name of the cochlear hydrops group on Facebook – I’ll definitely join it!

        Best wishes
        Carly

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Hi Carly,

        Thanks for the info! I’ll keep you posted on how my chiropractic appointments go! I haven’t been offered endolymphatic sac decompression, but I read about it being primarily for patients experiencing vertigo (which isn’t one of my symptoms yet).

        Here’s the Facebook group, it’s called Cochlear Endolymphatic Hydrops Support (non-Meniere’s): https://www.facebook.com/groups/1033185153508578/

        Best wishes!
        Karthik

        Liked by 1 person

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