ZocdocAnswersWhat kind of doctor do I see about popping in my ears?

Question

What kind of doctor do I see about popping in my ears?

A little before I found out about my second pregnancy I started having some popping noise in my left ear drum. Exactly like the sound when you crack your knuckles. So I went to my general practicing physician who said it was probably nothing and to come back if I still had it. 3wks later I rescheduled an appt w him where I also disclosed I was pregnant bc we were also doing medication mngmnt for another problem. My doctor knows I suffer from TMJ so his diagnosis was that I probably had agitated it with all my stress from being pregnant (bc I suffer from anxiety). This totally didn't sound right. The sound was only if I walked at a fast pace. So I just sort of learned to tune out the annoying sound and live with it. I did some research and found out about tinnitus but read that it is more so a ringing in the ear. Around the 8th month of my pregnancy the popping noise stopped but soon another symptom began. I have since then and still do hear an echoing. Especially when I am on the phone. If I have the phone on my right ear, the left ear echoes, muffles and rings the entire conversation....once I put the phone to my left ear it stops. I'm baffled as to what this could be and if I should see an ENT or go back to my physician. I'm on no medications currently. I do have a history of sinusitis and seasonal allergies (since 12) which have ceased to re_occur since the birth of my last two children in the last 3yrs. I also am experiencing not being able to breathe from one nostril causing me to wake up several times a night and I suffer from chronic migraines as well that occur 4-5times a week. Could all of this be tied in somehow to the ear? Or is one problem making others occur? Do I see the same kind of doctor for all of these problems? Thanks.

Answer

First of all I am sorry to hear that you have been bothered with ear troubles for so long. Let me first start by recommending that you go to an ENT to get evaluated. (I can give you my best guess as to what I think may be going on, but this doesn't by any means replace or compare to the history and exam that an ENT will be able to do in their office). Nonetheless here is what I think may be going on from your history...you brought up the possibility of tinnitus. You are right in that tinnitus is typically more of a ringing/buzzing/hissing sound tat is heard, usually in association with hearing loss (doesn't have to be however). It doesn't seem like this is actually what you are experiencing from what you have said. You also mentioned TMJ, which is also in the differential...in fact the floor of the external ear canal is actually the roof of the jaw joint (temporal-mandibular joint aka TMJ), so crepitus in the joint can be experienced as crunching or popping in the ear. However this is heard only with movement of the jaw...and you didn't say this specifically, but I am assuming that it is not the case. The ear popping and ear fullness that you describe is typically something called eustachian tube dysfunction. The eustachian tube is the small tube that brings air from the back of your nose to your middle ear to keep it aerated. When it malfunctions, it creates a vacuum in the middle ear and can give a sensation of fullness and "echoing". It can even give some hearing loss. The ENT will want to examine your ears, potentially look at the back of your nose with a scope, and potentially get a hearing test if they agree with this guess after taking a better history and examining you. Those are my thoughts. Hope this helps.

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