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Inflamed left ear drum and blocked right ear. Is this the cause for concern?

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ENT Specialist
Practicing since : 1991
Answered : 2447 Questions
Hello, about 3 weeks ago I had a mild cold , sore throat etc. but it didn't last long. A couple of days later my right ear felt blocked, so I went to surgery but no wax. Gp diagnosed inflamed left ear drum and prescribed antibiotic. Following all of this, the left ear was clear of inflammation but the right ear still feels full and doesn't pop like it used to and it also feels similar but not as bad on the left. Before, the eardrum would pop easily but now it feels like something is stopping it. When it does pop, hearing improves for a bit but then decreases again. Gp said he thought fluid behind eardrum, as ear drum looked a bit dull, but he said no other visible signs with drum after looking very carefully. Some days seem a little better than others. Can you tell me if I should just wait it out for it to get better on its own , and how long this may take, or seek a referral, and if there I'd anything I can do to help fluid to disappear quicker. Is there anything else I should be concerned about?
Posted Tue, 19 Nov 2013 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Answered by Dr. Sumit Bhatti 53 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Referral, I/A, Meds,Wait only 2 weeks at most.

Detailed Answer:

Thank you for your query.

1. A dull retracted tympanic membrane is a sign of fluid build up behind the ear drum. An ENT Specialist can discern the subtle features including loss of the light reflex, ear drum retraction, dullness (as opposed to the normal translucent appearance), any fluid level visible behind the ear drum, even air bubbles sometimes and also check the nose and sinuses for signs of infection and inflammation. Hence it is better to seek a referral.

2. A Tympanogram (Impedance Audiogram or I/A) will help estimate the Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD) and the amount of fluid build up behind the ear drum.

3. Based on the results of the ear examination and test results, you may require an anti-allergic, decongestant (oral and local nasal drops), mucolytic and steam inhalation to speed up the recovery. This is important because after some weeks the fluid thickens and achieves a 'glue' like consistency. There are other intermediate stages such as XXXXXXX (Secretory Otitis Media), OME (Otitis Media with Effusion), others with prurulent secretions.

4. 'Glue' ears may last for several months and carry the risk of ear drum collapse (atelectasis). Therefore, if you choose to wait, you should wait only a couple of weeks. Regular steam inhalation is of immense value.

I must emphasize that this is a common problem and there is no cause for worry.

I hope that I have answered your query. If you have any further questions, I will be available to answer them.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Inflamed left ear drum and blocked right ear. Is this the cause for concern? 1 hour later
Thank you very much Dr. Bhatti. I will go back to gp soon. Can you advise me if there are any over the counter medications, for example nasal spray that will help the situation. Many thanks
Answered by Dr. Sumit Bhatti 3 hours later
Brief Answer:
Otrivin (0.1% Xylometazoline) short term use

Detailed Answer:

Thank you for writing back.

1. Otrivin (0.1% Xylometazoline) nasal drops should be available OTC. Use 3-4 drops twice a day but do not use them continuously for more than a week. You may also use the Pediatric half strength 0.05% Xylometazoline (Otrivin-P).

2. Use these drops after lying down with a pillow under the shoulders and the head thrown back.

3. Steam inhalation should be continued.

I hope that I have answered your query. If you have any further questions, I will be available to answer them.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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