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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Ear Problems

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Ear Problem [posted 1/11/99]
Question: Is it safe to drive through the desert (and High Mountains) with a cold (which consists of consistent headaches, ear aches, and coughing)? We have to go to a wedding in Nevada. I've had ear problems since I was a child (tubes).

Answer: Sure, but you may experience ear pain. Take some gum to chew.

Broken Ear Drum  [posted 12/11/98]
Question:  Is a broken or ruptured ear drum treatable? If not should I expect dizzines and hearing loss? Thank you.

Answer: Yes, they usually heal themselves, but, need to be monitored to ensure they heal completely. Dizziness usually diminishes over time. Hearing loss may or may not.

Ear Draining Problems [posted 11/19/98]
Question: I have always had problems with the tubes in my ears not draining well. I have been prescribed Kefrex in the past to help with this problem. I called my doctor recently regarding this problem and he prescribed a drug called Amitex pse, generic for Entex pse. Is this a comparable drug? Will it help with my drainage problem? Is it even in the same catagory as Kefrex? How can it help me? Thank you

Answer: Well, it might, but, people with this type of problem often need mechanical drainage, even tubes like children get. It is one of those drugs we use because there are limited options which work.

Ear Popping & TMJ [posted 10/16/98]
Question: My ears are not plugged, they are popping almost continuously. I can hear my breath and voice in my ear very loudly. This has been happenig for 6 weeks now. Two ENTs, a GP and a Chiropractor said I have TMJ. The Orthodontist said any TMJ is minimal. I am taking Claritin, Cataflam, Klonipin (at night). I have have two bouts of strep throat during this 6 week timeframe. Please,please, help. I am going crazy from the continuos popping.

Answer: Claritin is a fine antihistamine;but, doesn't dry your secretions as much as traditional antihistamines like benadryl, chlortrimeton, etc. I would take Benadryl 50 mg every 8 hours for 4-5 days. It will cause extreme drowsiness.

Ear Problem [posted 7/17/98]
Question: I can feel my pulse(or hear it) in my left ear at times, particularly at night in bed. it's very deep inside my ear and it sounds like blood rushing through. I am 59 year old male in fairly good health.

Answer: The carotid artery goes about 1/8th inch behind the ear drug. Consequently, one will often hear flow through the artery and this really doesn't mean anything. Usually, I get an ultrasound to rule out any narrowing (stenosis) of the artery since this should be followed/fixed depending on the severity. However, the test is usually normal.

Plugged Ears
Question: My ears have been plugged since 1994. I get vertigo if I don’t take decongestants. I also take Beconaise nasal spray, and I am currently getting allergy shots. Nothing will unplug my ears. I believe it is the eustation tubes. Do you think that would help, or do you think there is anything else I could try?

Answer: You will need to see an ENT specialist to determine the flexibility and problem with your ears. Occasionally, drainage with a needle through the ear drum will help since long term secretions tend to turn to a jelly like material. Recurrent ear infections are a clear indication for tubes--regardless of age. I send several adults for tubes each year. There are few things to try after what you have done.

Itchy Ears
Question: Recently, my ears have been itching. I use cotton swabs like everyone else (never in the canals), and wash as best I can with soap in the shower. I probably have some compacted wax in my ear. How do I stop the itch? How can I prevent it?

Answer: The itch is probably caused by you and your cotton swabs. Your kindergarten teacher had the correct advice: Never put anything in your ears except your elbow and only wash with a washcloth. The wax is in your ears to prevent infections called otitis externa (swimmers ear) and manipulation with cotton swabs and excessive washing will cause this infection. Then as the ear is inflamed and trying to heal itself it begins to itch. (Similar to a scab that itches before it comes off). Continued irritation prolongs the healing and the itching. Stop cleaning your ears. You may need antibiotics for your ears, so if it persists see your physician. Get out of the habit of sticking anything in your ears. If you need the wax cleaned to hear let a physician or nurse do it and follow it with antibiotic drops to avoid further irritation and infection.

Ear Tubes
Question: My son age 12 now has had several ear tubes placed and now has a peforation that has not closed in his one ear. Hearing loss is minimal in that ear. One ENT fellow wants to patch the ear to help in the closure of the hole. My question is how good is this patch and how long is it good for? He still gets infections in that ear and it drains well probably due to the hole. What if we patch the,hole and he gets another infection? Will it still drain or just blow the patch out? Is there anything better at this time? Any help will be appreciated.

Answer: I'd surely get a second opinion and preferably from another ENT who specializes in this type of surgery. This is a little too specialized for me to be able to tell you the answer. I guess my bias would be to leave it alone unless it has been more than 6 months. What are the consequences of leaving it open?

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