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Acute media otitis, tinnitus, and airplanes ... I got messed up.

  1. Hanafuda
    I hesitated to post about this b/c it's kind of embarassing to come on head-fi and talk about your ears going haywire ... the immediate assumption from many members is going to be noise-induced (i.e. headphone) hearing loss. In my case, I can (about 99% [​IMG] ) attest that is not the cause. Anyway, here's the story as short as I can tell it ...

    my oldest son made the US Army All-American marching band this year, on snare drum. He's a real baddass on the thing. The band marched in the halftime show at the All-American Bowl on Jan 9th in San Antonio. And it was awesome. But on the night before we flew out, in a hotel room in Columbus OH, my right ear suddenly "filled up" and I instantly got a very-high pitched, painful ringing that would not go away. Right ear only. Normally I would've called an ENT the next morning, but this wasn't an option as the flight was for 6am and it was my kid's big moment ... I couldn't bow out. So, we flew, and the ringing got maybe 5x worse by the time we got off the second flight in Texas. I spent 5 days 'vacationing' around Houston and San Antonio, afflicted with severe tinnitus and some minor pain deep in the ear canal. The crowd noise at the ballgame was pure torture. Then we had to fly back. By the time we landed back in Columbus, I could hear nothing from my right ear but the ringing tone, some cricket chirps, and what sounded like tree branches cracking. [​IMG]

    I called an ENT right away, and they were so jammed up with surgeries that they couldn't get me in for a week. [​IMG] Anyway, my hearing checked out as 'normal' despite the tinnitus. I have some mild high-frequency loss mostly coming from hunting and skeet shooting shotguns when I was a kid - I don't think my dad even knew what earplugs were back in the early 70's. But I've known about that since I was a teenager, and I was told that below 12.5 kHz or so, my hearing was, "as good as a child's." Above 12.5, I can still hear some but it tapers off. Not too bad for a 42 year old male with a history of shooting firearms and too much Judas Priest back in the 80's. I was assured that I showed no signs of recent traumatic hearing loss, but my right middle ear was possibly damaged by this acute inflammation. Great.

    I've been on prednisone and Nasonex nasal spray (also steroidal) for a week now. After he heard I had H1N1 swine flu in December, the ENT supposes it may have messed up my eustachian tube function (I learned I have a deviated septum, too) and clogged everything up, leading to infection. No way to know for sure though. At this time, I no longer hear the ringing but there is still a soft, "leaking air hose" sound that wasn't there a month ago. I am pretty bummed, but hopefully this minor residual tinnitus I'm experiencing now is due to the tissues of my middle ear still being 'sore'. Compared to what I was enduring a couple weeks ago, this is bliss. I go back for follow-up next Tuesday.

    No headphones for me right now. I've been listening to low volume music a bit over loudspeakers ... it's only been possible to enjoy music again for the last 3 days or so. I am hoping I dodged the bullet, but only time will tell.

    Just needed to tell the story ... it's so hard to impress on anyone who hasn't encountered tinnitus just how depressing and life-altering it is. I got it by accidental/honest means, but since we're all headphone junkies PAY ATTENTION! the warnings are real. Tinnitus sucks. I feel I've been given a blessing in disguise ... a precious reminder as I enter middle-age (I'm 42) just how delicate and precious the sense of hearing is.
     
  2. chadbang
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Hanafuda /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    I feel I've been given a blessing in disguise ... a precious reminder as I enter middle-age (I'm 42) just how delicate and precious the sense of hearing is.



    I hear you. 52 years old here and I now live on and off with tinitus. Here's my very, very strong advice. When something like this happens, just say, oh well, no music for a week or two (except, of course, background level listening - which can be quite enough). I've found with tinitus-plauged ears that its all about giving them rest. I hurt mine this weekend pushing the volume on my stereo. Slight ringing in the left ear for the past 3 days. I won't go back to any "serious" listening until its completely cleared up. I'm an adult now, I can manage that kind of restraint. I couldnt as a kid, which is WHY I HAVE TINITUS
     
  3. Hanafuda
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by chadbang /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    When something like this happens, just say, oh well, no music for a week or two (except, of course, background level listening - which can be quite enough). I've found with tinitus-plauged ears that its all about giving them rest.



    Thanks for the advice, but believe me - considering what I just went through, youre preaching to the choir. I'm thinking more like no headphone use until March, no 'regular' listening volume until April. And that's IF the recovery continues to be successful. I can hang in there a couple months to save years.
     
  4. Rossinator
    I seem to have tinnitus but I really don't know why. I've always used headphones for listening to music, and although I have listened loud sometimes in the past year, before that I always listened to music VERY quietly. And most of the time I didn't have any background noise to drown out either. There doesn't seem to be any way it was caused by loud music/noise.
     
  5. Badd99
    Man, sorry to hear about your story. I hope it gets better! I had a ear scare myself and I really know what your talking about - makes you feel so depressed!

    Anyway, best of luck to you!
     
  6. DaveBSC
    I know how you feel, trust me.
     
  7. DaveBSC
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Hanafuda /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    But on the night before we flew out, in a hotel room in Columbus OH, my right ear suddenly "filled up" and I instantly got a very-high pitched, painful ringing that would not go away. Right ear only. Normally I would've called an ENT the next morning, but this wasn't an option as the flight was for 6am and it was my kid's big moment ... I couldn't bow out. So, we flew, and the ringing got maybe 5x worse by the time we got off the second flight in Texas. I spent 5 days 'vacationing' around Houston and San Antonio, afflicted with severe tinnitus and some minor pain deep in the ear canal. The crowd noise at the ballgame was pure torture. Then we had to fly back. By the time we landed back in Columbus, I could hear nothing from my right ear but the ringing tone, some cricket chirps, and what sounded like tree branches cracking.



    It's good that you were able to get to an ENT fairly quickly, as what you are describing sounds an awful lot to me like sudden sensorineural hearing loss, and not the more common result of infection or fluid buildup. SSHL needs to be treated with steroids right away, otherwise it can result in severe permanent hearing loss. If your hearing in your right ear has mostly returned, then you may have dodged a real bullet.

    I would suggest wearing plugs or bringing them just in case when your are going to be in a situation that might be even remotely loud. My favorites are the Hearos flange style swimmer's plugs, which are very comfortable and rated -25dB.
     
  8. Hanafuda
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DaveBSC /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    It's good that you were able to get to an ENT fairly quickly, as what you are describing sounds an awful lot to me like sudden sensorineural hearing loss, and not the more common result of infection or fluid buildup. SSHL needs to be treated with steroids right away, otherwise it can result in severe permanent hearing loss. If your hearing in your right ear has mostly returned, then you may have dodged a real bullet.

    I would suggest wearing plugs or bringing them just in case when your are going to be in a situation that might be even remotely loud. My favorites are the Hearos flange style swimmer's plugs, which are very comfortable and rated -25dB.





    Good suggestion. I've got the Flents "Quiet Please" foamies here, 29dB. Maybe not as comfortable, but darned effective. And cheap.

    I'm not 100% sure about this, but I believe SSHL was ruled out in my case, at least in part because my hearing in the affected ear is actually slightly superior to the asymptomatic one. Anyway, I have a follow-up Tuesday. The 'air leak' hiss has dissipated even further since I first posted this thread three days ago, but I am still taking the meds. I'm a little concerned about what happens when the prednisone ends, but its a taper-down regimen so I guess I'll get early warning. I'm hoping he'll tell me on Tuesday that the 'hiss' may yet improve some more over the long-term, but I am resigned to the possibility that this residual effect may be permanent.
     
  9. Hanafuda
    Well, here's an update for anyone who replied above who might be interested to know how things are going.

    I saw the ENT for a follow-up yesterday. Before the doctor came in, his assistant asked me how things were going. I told her that even though the prednisone had knocked the tinnitus back to a low hiss rather than a ringing tone, I was still having flare-ups where the tone would come back, and I was still having some occasional pain deep in the ear canal. Occasionally the pain was bad enough to give me a headache. She left for a few minutes, then came back and walked me right to the CT scan. They scanned my head, and found nothing. (heh) So the doctor asked me a bit about the pain I was having, and the tinnitus flare-ups. I told him that it was hurting at that very moment, and ringing to boot, though it could be back to just a slight hiss at any time. He asked me what I had just eaten for lunch ... I told him we had 'pizza day' at the office and I'd had three slices. He then got in front of me and asked me to open my mouth as far as I could. He then squeezed my jaw on both sides, which resulted in nothing on the left, and searing pain on the right. Eureka! It's been the TMJ all along! I was told to take 600mg of ibuprofen 3x a day for 2 weeks and see what happens. It only took about 12 hours to see he was right ... the hiss comes back a bit just before each time I take the ibuprofen again, but for a few hours in between I'm clear. Eating crunchy or chewy foods will flare it up a bit. Hopefully, after a few days pass it'll settle down to completely normal.

    I'm amazed I never made the connection before. With the inflammation in the TMJ receding, I can now discriminate that the pain is coming from my jaw, not my ear. But apparently I really did have the acute media otitis, but it was resulting from the TMJ irritating the whole region. And my best guess for how I got here is my own stupidity .. I had a molar extracted on the left side about 9 months ago, and I've been using the right side for heavy chewing jobs ever since. The unequal use of my jaw screwed my whole head up!

    Moral of the story ... take care of your teeth, or you may end up with ringing ears! [​IMG]

    I hesitate to proclaim, "I am cured!", but things are looking good.
     

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