Seeking Advice on Clogged Ears, Post Sinus Infection

Okay, mousekateers, standard disclaimer : I have seen a doctor about my sinus infection, so I am not seeking medical advice per se.

I have been living a hell for the last week and a half. Friday the 13th I started coming down with a cold, and on Wednesday the 18th, it looked like I was on the mend - then that night, big swerve, super congestion, etc. I last saw my doc on the 20th, and got a Z-pack and some sudafed, and resolved to tough it out.

Well, things are starting to mend, mostly, but I’m starting to lose patience with my ears. The right one’s been clogged for almost a week now, the left a couple days less. I can occasionally get a little air to bubble back and forth under ideal condition with the valsalva maneuver, but I’ve got about 80% hearing loss* from the blockages and it’s taking a toll on my ability to concentrate. I want to get those tubes opened up and get things draining, already! There’s no pain, just an uncomfortable fullness.

  • This is an estimate. Both ears can still hear things, it’s just that the volume is turned way down.

I’ve tried just about everything I can think of in various combinations :
Mucinex / expectorant
Sudafed / decongestant
Advil / anti-inflammatory
Saline nasal spray
Really, really hot and long showers
sleeping with humidifiers
heating pad
cold compress
every weird jaw maneuver under the sun

Am I missing anything? Do I just need to stop futzing with it and let it resolve on its own? Help me unlock my ears!

I recommend a Neti pot. Your average pharmacy will carry a nice convenient plastic one, along with pre-mixed packets of salt and bicarb.

Oh, I’ve also tried nasal spray steroids (Flonase) and decongestants (Afrin), as well as exercise.

I still recommend Neti pot. Repeat until you get results.

Are they better than the pre-mixed saline sprays? I thought the ‘Simply Saline’ was basically a disposable Neti Pot.

Sprays just lack the volume to really flood the nasal passageways and eustachian tubes.

You may need to use it multiple times over the day, but it will eventually work for 98% of folks.

Awesome. I will pick one up today. Any advice for a first-time Neti user? I assume I’ll need some distilled water as well.

I had been using the sprays pretty extensively, to try and fill up the nasal cavity, swish it around, even some nasal gargling, and I’ve gotten an impressive amount of bright yellow gunk out, but there’s always more…

I have suffered from this for years, and I also have Menieres.

You can buy battery-powered units that actually apply air pressure to each nostril. I won’t mention any brand names, but you can find them very quickly. I have two. Sometimes they work very well…sometimes not. But it is worth the effort to try one out. When they do work, it’s miraculous.

I’m hoping to schedule a balloonoplasty for my eustachian tubes sometime in the next year.

just don’t make the water too hot. Nor too chilly. right around 100 degrees is best.

Watch a few videos of people using it, if the idea intimidates you at all. It really is easy and comfortable, and if you already are snorting tons of saline via a squeeze bottle, it really shouldn’t present a challenge for you.

My patients love it, at least the ones that really benefit from it. They are loathe to give it up. I use it myself when I have a bad cold or allergy flares. And the scientific literature does demonstrate its effectiveness.

Use distilled water if you like. I use tap water from our well. There’s a history of some people getting amoebic infections while using it, but you need fairly gross water for that to happen. And you run the same risk by going swimming in lakes or streams.

ENTs have an instrument in their kit of tools that PCPs don’t have which can shoot air up your nose and open up your Eustachian tubes. I have had this procedure done. Granted, it was 40 years ago, but I heard heavenly voices after it was done. If ENTs don’t do it anymore, then they have replaced it with something better.

You probably have something called “glue ear,” which mostly occurs in children, but can happen in adults. Basically, you get sticky, thick fluid in your middle ear which keeps the bones from moving properly. A Neti-pot is not going to flush your middle ear, but an ENT can clear it out.

If glue ear is not your problem, then you may have inflammation that OTC drugs are not touching, and it can persist when the infection is gone. You might need steroids. I am the queen of sinus infections, and I have needed steroids a couple of times to clear them up. The first time I needed them, my PCP referred me to an ENT because she wanted a specialist to make the call, but after I had been through the regimen once, my PCP was happy just to prescribe the steroids when the same exact thing happened again.

So see an ENT. Call your insurance company first to see if you can just go, or if you need a referral.

Moderator Action

Since this concerns a real-world medical issue, it belongs in IMHO, so let’s move it there (from GQ).

I will keep this in mind. I actually did have a course of steroids as part of my sinus treatment, though. The six-day stepped-down methylprednisolone pack.

I had similar problems last year after in infection in the ear and broken eardrum. I did see my LPN, got some antibiotics for the infection and did some heat treatments.
I’m not sure I’d go pouring more stuff in an already clogged system, I didn’t, but I can recommend one thing in particular. Patience. This will take some time. I didn’t think I was ever going to hear right again.:eek:

I second the Neti pot recommendation. I started using one several years ago (probably due to Qadgop’s advice), and it really cut down on the frequency & severity of sinus infections, and IIRC did help clear up my ears as well.

First few times you use it:

Take off your glasses.
Have a box of tissues and a towel nearby.
Don’t wear a nice shirt. In fact, just go shirtless. Until you figure out the angles & flow, water is going to go everywhere.
If you have kids, lock the bathroom door so you don’t get a parade of spectators screaming “Oh my god, Dad! That’s so gross!”

So I think I am going to give the Neti Pot a shot tonight, and see if there’s any progress.

I may go ahead and call the ENT office, though. It’s probably worth the co-pay just to have things checked out, and I can cancel an appointment if the Neti does its work.

how long did it take?

Roger that!

Actually, they do, quite nicely. Not as actively as compressed air will, but with less likelihood of rupturing the eardrum than air under pressure has.

Hence the recommendation for multiple high volume low pressure rinses.

I love my Neti Pot and have used it every night for about 4 years now, or more. I went from being an ear-infection-prone kiddo and teen, to a sinus-infection-prone 20-something, to a rarely-sick legit grown-up. Woohoo!

Well, the ENT has an opening for 1:30 today, so I guess I’ll talk to him/her first, and see what they can tell me. Neti pot after work, if I’m still clogged! Thanks folks.