DEAR DR. GOTT: A while back, you had a column about ear blockage. It reminded me of a similar problem that I had several years ago. One of my ears felt plugged, and my hearing didn’t seem right. I was also experiencing a feeling of water “sloshing” around in my ear, as if I had been swimming, which I hadn’t been. I went to my general practitioner who couldn’t figure it out. He referred me to an ear-nose-and-throat specialist who passed it off as water in my ear from showering. He believed it would go away on its own. Several months later, it started getting painful, so I went to a different ENT, who happened to have an excellent reputation in the area I was living at the time. He performed the whole hearing test and noted that the hearing in that ear was slightly weak. He suspected there was water trapped behind a very thin layer of wax that was covering my eardrum. He had me lay on a table, and he looked into my ear with a large microscope suspended from the ceiling. He used a small instrument with a very thin wire loop on the end of it to peel the wax away from the eardrum. The wax was amazingly thin and had the impression of my eardrum in it. The water drained away, and my hearing was restored.
I don’t know if this could be a reason for the problem of the person who wrote in, but it could be a simple answer to it. Hopefully, something so simple was considered in his or her case. It took a third doctor to figure out the simple cure for my problem. You may want to pass this along.
DEAR READER: You took appropriate steps by starting with your primary-care physician. Since he couldn’t figure out the cause of your symptoms, he was correct in referring you to a specialist. The specialist was conservative in his approach.
I don’t believe that you needed to see a second specialist unless you repeatedly returned to the first ENT when your symptoms worsened. If that was the case, you were definitely justified in seeking out a third opinion.
Earwax buildup is a common problem, as is water trapped in the ear. There are several over-the-counter treatment options available for people who have frequent problems with these conditions.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Ear Infections and Disorders.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a check or money order for $2 to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention to mention the title.