December 4th, 2017 | Ask an Audiologist | by Mike Prangley

Ask an Audiologist: Ringing and a Feeling of Fullness

Ask an Audiologist

Midway through a course of antibiotics for a skin infection last week, I’ve had a constant ringing in my ears and a feeling of fullness. I also hear a popping/crackling every time I yawn or swallow. I was prescribed a nasal spray but have had no changes, and I’ve been using it for 4 days. I didn’t go to any concerts and haven’t had a sinus infection. Any thoughts on what it can be or what I should do next?

Audiologist Response

Thank you for your inquiry. When you swallow, chew or yawn, the Eustachian tube (which connects the middle ear to the back of your throat, opens to allow the pressure inside your ear to be the same as the external environment. This equalizes the pressure and can cause almost a popping like sound to occur. If there is an issue with this tube opening and closing the way it should, a mild conductive hearing loss can occur along with a feeling of fullness.  The tinnitus you are experiencing in the ear with the fullness is often quite common as well. Albeit rare, a side effect of some medications is ringing in the ear. You may want to consult the paperwork that came with the medication to check for “side effects” If this ringing continues after the medication, and your skin issue has otherwise resolved, further discussion with your doctor and/or a hearing assessment is certainly suggested. An Audiologist will assess the functioning of the eardrum to determine if further medical intervention is necessary. An audiologist will also assess the hearing to determine if your hearing thresholds are within normal limits. Are you currently dealing with a cold along with the skin issue?

As atmospheric pressure changes outside, this can affect the functioning of the Eustachian tube and is often worse with people with sinus issues or allergies. I have had 5 people in the last month into my office with exactly the same symptoms you are reporting. In most cases, I have not had to see any of these clients back because the issue resolved itself with time.

There are a couple of options for people with Eustachian tube issues and/or ear fullness. One, you can try the Valsalva technique. This involves plugging the nose and trying to force air into the middle ear space and opening up that tube to regulate the pressure. The second option is to try a nasal spray, or decongestant, to try and relieve pressure off of the sinuses, which is what you are already doing. The third option is a device called the Ear Popper. When I worked with an ENT, he would often suggest the use of this device for people with the issue that you have. The Ear Popper is available online and retail outlets like Shopper’s Drug Mart also carry it. The Ear Popper is unfortunately quite expensive ($135+), but many people experienced relief from this issue after using it.

Good luck! Hopefully in a short time this will all disappear. If it continues, please discuss further medical intervention with your doctor.

Mike Prangley is an Audiologist registered with CASLPO working for Hearing Solutions. Currently, Mike sees patients at the Masonville Place Hearing Solutions clinic in London, Ontario.

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