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Old 07-22-2008, 07:43 AM   #1
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Ear ache without infection?

Two nights ago, I was drying myself off after a shower when I noticed that my right ear was slightly painful to the touch. A few hours later, I checked my ear again and found that a large amount of dark brown wax had accumulated at the entrance of the ear canal.

Yesterday, my ear was still painful to the touch, but it didn't seem to be any better or worse. At night, I saw my doctor who examined my ear with a scope and, to my surprise, said it was definitely not infected. (It's interesting to note that when he used the scope, I was expecting pain, but it didn't hurt at all. Then I realized the pain is surrounding the ear canal, not in it.) He also saw a small piece of wax, but didn't think it was large enough to cause any pain. He checked around my upper right molars, asking if his finger caused any pain—it didn't. (For the record, I had all my wisdom teeth out over a year ago, but the surgeon said there wasn't a wisdom tooth present in my upper right quadrant.) Neither my throat or nose are sore or congested. No discharge. No dizziness. The pain is behind the cartilage surrounding the ear canal, but not the canal itself. It doesn't hurt if I don't press on it, but I think I feel a slight discomfort at times... could just be my concentrating on it though.

This morning it still hurts. It either feels the same or maybe a bit worse, but that could be because I'm nervous and concentrating on it. I took an Advil about an hour ago which hasn't done anything.

As a professional worrier, I only have a few clues to work with. First, several months ago I had a cold in which my ears kept popping. Even after the cold was gone, I noticed my ears were a lot more sensitive to pressure. My ears pop all the time now. Also, this may sound really strange, but when I burp my right ear (probably my right Eustachian tube) actually hurts a tiny bit, or least I experience a bit of discomfort.

Second, for the 3 days prior to noticing this pain, I was in a hotel going up and down elevators, and my ears popped a lot. I just yawned as usual to 'unpop' them and didn't think anything of it. (I didn't do any swimming at the hotel for the record.)

Third, I remember having swimmer's ear twice as a kid. Both instances occurred when I had been swimming a lot. The first time I got ear drops from the doc and it cleared up. The second time, my aunt just poured a small bit of rubbing alcohol in my ear (I remember because some of it got in my eye and it stung like hell.) and it went away.

That's all I got. Is it possible I *do* have an infection and the doc missed it? He's a good doctor and he's been pretty accurate throughout my life, so I trust him mainly, but at the same time my anxiety is causing me to second guess.

Any ideas as to what this might be? Any suggestions?

Thank you.

Last edited by sap; 07-22-2008 at 07:44 AM.

 
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Old 07-22-2008, 12:57 PM   #2
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Re: Ear ache without infection?

did the doc say anything about having fluid in your ear? i get fluid in my middle ear very easily and it can be very painful

 
Old 07-22-2008, 03:06 PM   #3
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Re: Ear ache without infection?

I get ear pain/aches from fluid in my ear due to allergies. Also, ringing in the ears and feeling like there water in my ear. My ears pop constantly-very annoying. Just a thought..

 
Old 07-22-2008, 03:47 PM   #4
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Re: Ear ache without infection?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dolysods View Post
did the doc say anything about having fluid in your ear? i get fluid in my middle ear very easily and it can be very painful
Is yours painful from the outside of the ear? My ear only hurts on the outside. The ear canal itself doesn't seem to hurt at all.

I spoke to my doctor again a few minutes ago because it's really starting to get annoying now. At certain points in the day, I even felt like it was affecting my hearing. He said the outside of the ear was fine when he checked and that I may be developing a middle ear infection behind the ear drum if anything. He recommended I wait a day or two and if it doesn't improve he'll check me out again / start me on antibiotics. He told me that putting anything in the ear from the outside won't do anything, and that if I wanted I could try over-the-counter Mucinex to drain the fluid.

I think I'm just going to try to stick it out a day or two and see what happens. I doubt it'll get better but maybe it will. I'll try to drink more water.

So here I am again, bracing myself for another health issue. I feel like I battle a new health issue every month, regardless of my youth, regularly exercising, eating all the right foods, no body fat, et c. The only things I'm not good at are being happy and staying calm. Or maybe I just have screwed up DNA. Or both.

 
Old 07-23-2008, 04:36 AM   #5
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Re: Ear ache without infection?

Have you considered that TMJ might be the cause? Might be worth looking into especially as you say the ear hurts on the outside. Given that you are feeling stressed it could be that you are clenching your teeth or tightening the muscles in your face without really being aware of it. This can definitely cause ear pain. Try using warm compresses on that side and see if it brings some relief. You can also use cold compresses. See which feels better to you. I have been through this, in fact an still going through it. I too thought I had an ear infection until the ENT said - TMJ. TMJ can cause many different symptoms including ear pain, clogged ears, etc. Often times the simple answers are the best - relaxing the facial muscles, eating lightly for awhile, moist heat, etc. Most of all try not to be too alarmed. Give your body a chance to relax - yoga is excellent especially the relaxation tapes.

This may or may not be the problem, but worth thinking about.

glowing4

 
Old 07-23-2008, 11:42 AM   #6
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Re: Ear ache without infection?

Quote:
Originally Posted by glowing4 View Post
Have you considered that TMJ might be the cause? Might be worth looking into especially as you say the ear hurts on the outside. Given that you are feeling stressed it could be that you are clenching your teeth or tightening the muscles in your face without really being aware of it. This can definitely cause ear pain. Try using warm compresses on that side and see if it brings some relief. You can also use cold compresses. See which feels better to you. I have been through this, in fact an still going through it. I too thought I had an ear infection until the ENT said - TMJ. TMJ can cause many different symptoms including ear pain, clogged ears, etc. Often times the simple answers are the best - relaxing the facial muscles, eating lightly for awhile, moist heat, etc. Most of all try not to be too alarmed. Give your body a chance to relax - yoga is excellent especially the relaxation tapes.

This may or may not be the problem, but worth thinking about.

glowing4
I went to my primary care physician this morning and he said the same thing—no infection. Luckily I got an appointment with an ENT today as well to get a second opinion. The ENT did several diagnostic tests and said there is absolutely no infection.

Then he handed me a TMJ pamphlet. glowing4, you were right.

Well, at least I can be pretty certain it's not an infection. That makes me feel better. Who would have known that a TMJ issue could cause hearing loss?

Looking back to this weekend, I can think of a few reasons why I might have put strain on my jaw. I kept getting headaches over the weekend and to ease the pain I was frequently putting pressure on my temples. Also over the weekend, I was going up and down elevators (20+ stories) and my ears kept popping, so I was doing a lot of yawning motions to unpop them. Maybe I strained it some how doing these things?

I don't think I grind my teeth at night, but how would one determine for sure?

The ENT prescribed Medrol (prednisone) but I'm not sure I want to take steroids at this point. I tried heat last night coincidentally which did make it feel better. I guess I'll just try to take it easy with jaw movements, relax, et c.

Yet another stress-induced ailment. Sigh.

Thank you sincerely for the replies.

 
Old 07-23-2008, 01:35 PM   #7
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Re: Ear ache without infection?

I am so glad you found your answer - that is great. Now, let me caution you to not get too involved in the diagnosis! I have been driving myself crazy for the last six months wondering how to fix this - have tried acupuncture, massage, etc. I was offered prednisone and also muscle relaxants, but took neither. I am not one for taking too many drugs and did not want to trade one problem for another.

Headaches very often are part of TMJ so don't be surprised by those.

The ear popping in the elevator is probably because TMJ affects the eustatian tube. The tightness of the muscles presses on the tube which tends to affect it - gives you that clogged feeling. Very normal with TMJ.

If you are grinding your teeth your dentist will usually notice that as there will be wear on your teeth. But you can be clenching and not realize that, even throughout the day. Try to tell yourself to relax your facial muscles - even smiling will do this. Notice if you are carrying tension in your face or neck. Tell your face to relax. Sounds stupid, but it does work.

And yes, stress does play a very big role and yes, another stupid stress related problem. Don't feel alone with this, we all have stress and we all have areas that it affects.

I have found that some yoga exercises really help. I stumbled on this by popping in one of my yoga relaxation tapes - hadn't done it in years! Lo and behold, my ears and face felt better. I have posted them before but will repeat them for you.

Inhale and tilt your head to the side - right ear over right shoulder. Stay there for a few seconds and breathe deeply.
Inhale and bring your head upright. Repeat on the left. Do each side about four or five times.

Inhale and look to the right. Stay there for a few seconds and breathe deeply. Inhale and come back to center. Repeat on the left. Do each side about four or five times alternating sides.

Inhale and drop chin to chest. Breathe deeply. Inhale and come back to center. Inhale and drop head backwards. Breathe deeply. Inhale and bring head back to center.

Inhale and raise arms over head. Exhale and roll down so that arms hang loosely at your sides and eyes are looking at your knees. Breathe deeply. Inhale and gently roll up. Repeat several times.

All of these should be done gently, without strain or pressing too hard. Relaxed breathing is important. I have found that when my ear is clogged that looking to the opposite side, holding and breathing, really helps. Also the ear to shoulder one. Remember, slow, gentle, no pressure. I do these many times during the day or when I feel especially bad. No one needs to know - just look right or left, or tilt your head!!!!

Again, do not get too hung up in the diagnosis. Use the heat compresses - cold works good too when it is aching. Tell yourself to relax your face.

One last thing - read some books by Dr. Sarno or his disciples. His theory is that stress and repressed emotions cause oxygen deprivation in certain areas of the body, thus causing pain. Don't be put off by the titles of his books such as "Healing Back Pain". His theories have worked on many problems in the body that people face. When you can say to yourself - wow, I am feeling stressed or upset and my body is reacting to that stress, you can begin to help yourself and feel better. And by the way, Dr. Sarno is a very respected MD and a back surgeon in New York. Give the body/mind theories some thought.

Good luck to you. I am so glad you got a diagnosis. Just knowing what it is goes a long way to relieving the mind of worry. Glad you had a very smart ENT.

glowing4

Last edited by moderator2; 07-23-2008 at 03:00 PM. Reason: posted disallowed website(s)

 
Old 07-31-2009, 10:30 AM   #8
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Re: Ear ache without infection?

Hello,

I know this is quite old now but I thought I'd post here as I have exactly the same symptoms as the original poster and my TMJ specialist said the cause was stress.

Now I believe him as it was triggered at a time that was very stressful and as it wasn't diagnosed for at least 1 and 1/2 months - I had pretty much constant pain all that time, without knowing why. Then after being diagnosed I had another month and a half before knowing the cause and so was treated with splints, muscle relaxants and a host of other things, none of which worked. (In fact some seemed to make things worse according to my TMJ specialist).

The trouble is, this has been going on so long and I have had such brutal amounts of pain that I haven't been able to lead a normal life for over three months now. This means that a lot of my stress comes from worrying about the condition itself and when it's going to strike and cause pain and that of course triggers stress and pain and I find myself in a never ending miserable circle. I genuinely feel like I'm losing my mind sometimes and this isn't helped by having recurring ear infections during this time. The last time I saw my doctor to see if the last infection had gone he said my ear still didn't look right and he referred me back to an ENT.

This means since being diagnosed I've been attributing most of my ear pain to TMJ and trying to ignore it. But that now I'm not sure if this is right or not as one doctor said I have a pink ear canal. At one point one said I had a distended ear drum and the last said it just didn't look right.

Has anyone been through anything similar or does anyone have any advice on breaking this cycle of stress?

 
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