Possible ETD - and then tinnitus!!!!

I had been having eustachian tube problems for a few months. It all started last winter when I suddenly noticed my hearing in my left ear becoming slightly diminished - nothing serious, but slightly deafer. This would then be followed by a bout of shrieking tinnitus at night and some degree of intolerance to shrill noises, but after a day or two, it would subside to nothing - I'd sleep with my head propped on a pillow and hear my ears go 'pop' suddenly in the night, and then suddenly all the sounds would ease in intensity and the hearing would return to normal, without a trace of tinnitus in my left ear. This happened a few times over the course of 2 months. I also had trouble equalising pressure in my ears, had to manually 'pop' them whenever I went into the Tube, or up/down a lift, or even driving down a hill when it would not have given me any problems in the past. I assumed this was all down to nasal congestion and thought it would gradually go away. I managed to manually pop my ears by tensing my jaw muscles - is it possible to damage one's ears at all in that way? Anyway most of the problems seemed to occur with my left ear - my right one occasionally felt a bit full or blocked, but I didn't worry about it much as my hearing was normal.

Anyway I have been having some nasal congestion problems at night. One morning I woke up and noticed a strange, fluctuating noise in my right ear. Sort of like an analogue modem blipping away. I could only hear it at night when all was quiet, or when I concentrated really hard in a very quiet room. I was slightly perturbed when it did not go away after a week and in fact, seemed to get worse, when the fluctuating noise would be accompanied by either a high pitched sound like water rushing through a pipe, or a steady lower-pitched droning noise. It felt almost pulsatile although it is not in time with my pulse. At times the sounds would all sound vague, like it was all underwater, or merely in my head - and I had several sleepless nights suffering from it. I went to my GP and they said my ears were OK and referred me to a private ENT so I could be seen more quickly. They gave me a steroid nasal spray (Nasonex) which I started using in both nostrils, although I had not noticed significant periods when both nostrils were all clear.

I waited another week before making the ENT appointment, and in this time, my left ear started up as well.... first with a constant high-pitched tone, which would sometimes change pitch... It was starting to drive me crazy. I thought all the time it was due to congestion in my eustachian tube, maybe a bit of ETD or whatever, as I often felt my ears popping and clicking for no good reason. I started having a phobia of using the Tube because of the pressures created.

Anyway, when I saw the ENT, he checked me out for the obvious things, said my audiogram revealed perfectly normal hearing, and there was nothing wrong with the tympanogram either, suggesting my eustachian tubes were fine. He shrugged when I mentioned the problems I'd been having with equalising pressure, and just suggested using a decongestant nasal spray. He just said that my tonal tinnitus must be caused by an inner ear problem, because "tones were mostly inner ear" - has this been your experience? He was MOST unhelpful and I was so distressed upon leaving his office that I nearly vomited on the pavement. I have felt like ending it all too, especially when the noises are particularly bad and keep me from sleeping. Sometimes though, the left ear quietens down completely -- and the right ear is quiet enough to allow me some rest and optimism, but I fear those days will become increasingly infrequent as time goes by. I don't understand how tinnitus can develop in one ear and then 'spread' to the other after a few weeks?? Since mine comprises several different tones, I don't know if masking will help? I can't fall asleep to the radio, and this is depressing me so much that I fear that I will do something stupid or rash if I don't find some relief soon. Please, someone, help me. I've been suffering this for nearly a month and it just feels like it is all getting worse. It is SO overwhelming.

I never go to any noisy clubs or attend gigs, I don't recall any event when I could have damaged my hearing, no knocks on the head or any injury. No medication either and I don't drink much tea or coffee. The only thing is that I have been experiencing high levels of stress in the past 6 months. Could stress just kick off tinnitus??? I thought it just worsened it, but could not actually cause it?

Please help... I am so desperate for answers.
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  • Normally you get referred by your ENT to the audiologist at the hospital you go to. As far as I know all hospitals have at least one audiologist doing some tinnitus therapy. If you wonder how to get there try to contact PALS at your hospital. These people job is to listen to your queries/complaints and they will listen to your problem and try to help you. I've had to deal with them and they are good, as they have access to your files as well.
    When it comes to the ENT being unsympathetic, don't even get me started on that!!! You don't fit the criteria, so they want you out of their office ASAP.
    Regarding your symptoms I have the same ones. I don't think that the tubes have much to do with the problem, only if they don't open when they should but still open. It won't even appear on an X-ray. I have read somewhere that this feeling in your ears are a reaction to the tinnitus, that basically your ears' tiny muscles cramp around the eardrum because of the noise. Good luck all the same!
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