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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  • Tom, what is weird is that when my ETD started last year and was quite bad, I could feel my left ear blocking up and I was slightly deaf. Then a loud shrieking T would start, and everything would sound shrill for a day or two. Then lying in bed at night, with my head at a certain angle, I would then feel a certain pressure inside my head, and then hear popping noises in my ear. That's the best way I can explain it - and then almost immediately after, the T would ease to a loud buzzing and my deafness would ease. Then barely a day later, the ear would feel completely normal. It was also around this time that my ET weren't working and I had to manually open them to equalise the pressures. I would even go slightly deaf travelling on the Tube. Then all these problems started after the worst of the ETD symptoms eased - although they were still there. However the only difference is that I don't sense any hearing blockage or loss along with the T, and the T is mild in comparison with what I had last year. The only difference is that the T is now pretty much persistent. It really upsets me. The ENT said that my symptoms sounded like ETD but the tests showed that my tubes were now normal, and any residual discomfort should be sorted with nasal sprays. He insisted my T has nothing to do with this but it just seems like a coincidence???
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