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Is muted, crackling in left ear hearing loss or something else?

Looking for feedback and thoughts on my ENT experience with muted crackling sounds in my left ear.

I know this is a lot to take in but I feel that TMI is better than not enough.

For the last six years, I have had inner ear infections from fluid not draining properly. Usually, about once a year. Each visit to the doctor resulted in my taking antibiotics, which worked and being told to get to an ENT to have my sinuses checked. Without money or insurance, that wasn't an option. They also suggested using a Neti pot regularly (with distilled water) to clear my sinuses and Fluticasone propionate spray to help dry them out.

Now that I have a good job with insurance, I went to another doctor for the same issue. I was told that the fluid was building up again and I was on the edge of another infection. I rejected the idea of taking the antibiotics and made an appointment with an ENT for the next day.

That night, and it wasn't the first time, I woke up with drainage coming out of my ear and the pressure felt relieved. The next morning, it was back.

What it feels like is a muffled or muted sensation to sound in my left ear and if the radio or someone talking hits a certain frequency or volume or if multiple people were talking at the same time, it would turn into crackling sound like rice crispies. It also mutes when I get overheated working on hot days.

Oddly, when I massage the back of my ear with my finger, it clears up for a short while. But I can't go driving around town with one hand on the wheel and the other behind my ear.

I went to the ENT expecting to find out that my eardrum had burst. On the way to the office, driving with the window down, I heard snap, crackle, pop the whole way. When the doctor's assistant opened the window and the AC unit outside came on... snap, crackle, pop.

Imagine my surprise when the ENT checked me out and informed me that my ears were fine. He then had me take a hearing test and, surprise, it showed I had significant hearing loss in both ears and as far as he could tell, it had been that way for a long time. I explained that it had only been a couple of days and that on any other day I could hear a pin drop across the room. He suggested that I come back if it happens again. When I said it was happening now he repeated that my ears were fine. Frustrating? Yup.

A week or two later, I called the ENT's office to request another doctor for the follow up. They had me go to the doctor that they send people to when the other doctors can't solve an issue. That was encouraging.

This doctor entered the room, glanced at my ears and repeated what the other doctor had said. I tried to explain that it wasn't long term and had only been a couple of weeks. He again, repeated what the other doctor said. I leaned forward and said, “I really need you to stop talking and start listening. This has only been happening for a couple of weeks and multiple GP's have suggested a sinus issue due to the yearly infections from the Eustachian tube not draining properly. They all said I needed to get to an ENT and here I am. And you tell me that my ears are fine, other than long term damage, when I am hearing crackling as we speak?” I wish I had a picture of the look on his face. After a moment of silence, he said if that was the case, I would have to have an MRI and may have to take some kind of steroids (it sounded like a threat for some reason but it may have just been my hearing loss interfering with my perception...)

I opted not to take the steroids due to my neurological doctor saying I could go “Jekyll and Hyde” if it interfered with my ADHD medication.

But the MRI went well and if it wasn't for the guy with the jackhammer who chose to work right next to me while I was in the tube, I would have gotten a nice nap. It's a good thing he was gone when I came out.

A couple of weeks later, I took the cd (after looking at the images, myself, for a couple of hours... there were brains in there, contrary to popular belief) to the doctor. After about five minutes, he said there were no issues and I should come back in six months or go ahead and start looking into hearing aids...

Now I am not opposed to hearing aids and when I hit my 40's, embraced the need for glasses and don't mind that my hairline is looking, suspiciously, a lot like my grandfather's. It's just life. But considering my history of being very intuitive about my body and health, something just doesn't feel right about this issue.

So I am bringing this here to see if anyone has experienced anything similar or if, dare I think it, a doctor has an opinion supporting or questioning the diagnosis (legal disclaimer: no opinion will be considered as an actual diagnosis or recommendation for treatment that the opinion giver can be held liable for and any such opinion will only be used as a research tool to take to my next appointment to use as area of discussion and consideration... because I would hate to go broke paying for hearing aids only to find that I would only be able to hear the snap, crackle and pop better... and louder... I'm just saying...)

A little more background and not sure if it is related, I had an abscess in my lower jaw on the left side and came close to dying back in 2010. I had emergency surgery that drained the abscess. Ever since, I have experienced phantom sensations like having cotton stuck in my mouth between my cheek and gum on that side. A dentist explained to me that it was, most likely, from nerve damage from the infection or the surgery. I wonder now if it isn't also partially to blame for my hearing issues since the incisions were in the area of my left ear.

Thank you in advance for your input and or criticism and for taking the time to read about my, long winded, experience.
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