My Story: Popping When Swallowing

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by BrianMo, Jul 10, 2022.

    1. BrianMo

      BrianMo Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Surgery
      Hello, my name is Brian and I would like to share my story. Perhaps there is something I am missing where I could receive help, and perhaps my story could provide some help to others. If nothing else, maybe some members can relate to my story and we could provide support to each other.

      Over the past several years, I had a symptom that others have mentioned on here in other threads, where I was both hearing and feeling a click/flutter in my left ear whenever I blinked. Two neurotologists diagnosed this as most likely the stapedius muscle vibrating when I blinked. With much of the information I had researched myself and have been fortunate to find on this board, I knew that it could also be the tensor tympani. Both doctors were 100% sure it was the stapedius, and all but shut me down when I asked about the tensor tympani. One doctor would only do the surgery under general anesthesia and the other was willing to do it under local anesthesia, which was my preference.

      On the day of surgery, even though I knew I would be awake for the surgery and could “test out” what happened when he cut the stapedius, I pleaded with him that if there was any doubt, to cut both the stapedius and tensor tympani, as I did not want to go through through two surgeries. We agreed to cut the stapedius, and see what happened, since I would be awake during the surgery.

      The surgery was very quick, and upon seeing my tendons, he asked me to blink. It was confirmed that my stapedius was vibrating with each blink, and the nerve was cut. I was asked to blink again, and it did the trick. No more clicking/fluttering when I blinked. The doctor put the packing in my ear and told me what to expect in the recovery.

      My left ear of course felt plugged, which I knew would happen, but a week into recovery, I knew something was wrong. Randomly, my left ear would go from totally clogged and unable to hear anything, to feeling like it was wide open and I could hear normally. This would happen in about 10 second increments, before eventually going back to feeling fully plugged. I hadn’t read about this happening to anyone else in recovery, and knew this was the first step of something going wrong. The doctor assured me it was probably just the packing dissolving, and to wait it out. A few days after this started, a new issue started, and is the reason why I am writing this post. All of a sudden, whenever I swallowed, and only when I swallowed, I would hear a loud click/squish/pop in my left ear. Soon this spread to both ears. I again called my doctor and was again told to wait it out, though he acknowledged it was weird to be experiencing this in my non-operated ear as well. I eventually was able to get in to get the rest of the packing out, but it did nothing to resolve this new symptom which I have now been battling for 4 months.

      I still now hear a loud, impossible to ignore pop in both ears when I swallow. First, my doctor said to do a nasal wash and try Flonase. These did nothing. Then it was thought that maybe it was patulous, so I tried PatulEND, which also did nothing. Upon examining me, he saw no obstruction of my Eustachian tubes, and nothing abnormal. I was put on Prednisone, which didn’t help. PPIs were also tried. Throughout this time, hearing tests were coming back normal, with the exception of one dip on every test, which I came to learn often coincided with Eustachian tube dysfunction. I was also showing some negative pressure on the tests, which was also confirmed by several doctors by looking at my eardrum, which had become retracted. The EarPopper, Valsalva maneuver and Otovent did not help. The doctor offered to put in ventilation tubes, but outright told me that since there was no fluid in my ear, that he didn’t expect them to help.

      At this point, still not even having a diagnosis on if I had obstructive or patulous Eustachian tube, I sought out an ent who performed Eustachian tube balloon dilation. He said my case sounds like classic Eustachian tube dysfunction, and that he would do the dilation on me, but I held off, knowing that this procedure could cause patulous, and make things worse. I’ve actually had several ENTs outright warn me about it and tell me not to do the procedure.

      At this point, feeling like I need more of a level of expertise, I made 10 hour round trip drive to Baltimore to visit Johns Hopkins, and visit a doctor who worked closely with Dr. Poe. The doctor was excellent, but also was stumped. His suggestion was that this could be TMJ, and to seek out TMJ physical therapy.

      I went to my dentist, who checked me for about 10 seconds, and said I don’t have TMJ, but to go to a surgeon to check. The surgeon spent about 20 seconds with me, and said not only do I not have TMJ, but that my bite was the best he had seen that day, and he was confused why I was there, since to him, this was clearly an ear issue. I sought out one more dentist who focused on TMJ. He did jaw tracker tests on me, and was finding very little to suggest TMJ. He was about to tell me he couldn’t help me, when he then asked me to swallow, and the results on the test screen went crazy. Both him and his dental assistant let out a verbal “whoa” and he nearly fell over. I was happy to know I wasn’t going crazy, and that something was happening when I swallowed. He diagnosed me with TMJ, however, deep down, this still feels like an ear problem to me. It would be quite a coincidence that TMJ started up a week after my ear surgery.

      I am currently awaiting a mouth piece for my TMJ, but I am skeptical it will solve the issue of the popping/clicking when I swallow. I say that because he then recreated on me what the mouthpiece will do and how it will be positioned, but it wasn’t helping. He said it could take some time for the adjustment to take, but I’m pessimistic. I will also be starting TMJ physical therapy in a few days.

      I feel like this is going to be another very expensive dead end. The jaw tracker test going bonkers when I swallow did provide me some ability to accept that it could be TMJ, but I guess I will find out. I feel like it’s still my ears because now when I blow my nose, or yawn, I can feel movement and sounds in my Eustachian tubes that I never was able to feel before. I have the ENTs telling me it’s a dental problem and the dental guys (except the most recent one), telling me it’s an ear problem. Even the most recent ENT seems baffled as to how my specific symptom could cause the ear sounds.

      I am still considering the ventilation ear tubes and the balloon dilation, though I am afraid of both. I am afraid of the dilation giving me patulous and am afraid of the ear tubes making things worse, as well as possibly bringing back my vestibular/balance problems. I also wonder if cutting the tensor tympani could work, but that also wouldn’t make sense since only one ear was operated on, but the swallow issue happens in both ears. The same is true with my thoughts of any surgery on the tensor veil palatini. In terms of just thinking through it in other ways, I’ve wondered if something like gel foam could be injected in my tubes, if nothing else, just to try to change the way my Eustachian tubes move for whatever is going on that is causing this noise when I swallow. I know that won’t solve the root of the issue, but I honestly care more just about solving the symptom, even if it’s a band aid solution. I haven’t been able to find a doctor to feel this could be a viable route. Ear plugs provide little to no help, as I’ve tried packing my ear externally, but it’s definitely emanating on the side of the ear.

      I don’t know what to do, but am doing my normal routine tonight of trying to read and learn about what this could be, all while slowly going insane. This has taken over my life. I cringe and curl up with each swallow, knowing the pop and click is going to be there. I have to do something.

      Thank you for reading. If there is anything in my story that you think I am missing that could help me, I would be sincerely grateful. If you are fighting a similar fight and have any questions, I would be happy to answer. If you are fighting a similar fight and need a friend, I am here.
       
    2. REZZ

      REZZ Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      08/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      loud music in one ear and the other one a valsalva
      Hey man,

      I have similar popping issues with different causes, though the popping happens when I move my face/neck muscles. I have had jaw physiotherapy which didn't do anything for me. Also had an incision made in my eardrum to try relieve pressure of my ear which made things worse during the time it was open. When it healed, things went back to before the surgery.

      I currently have a grommet in my left ear, it's reduced the ear popping by 99%, although my ear still gets full/pressure. Also, my hearing sounds somewhat disturbed, can't really figure out what it is, maybe like I'm in a tunnel.

      I additionally got pulsatile tinnitus above the normal tinnitus I have as well in that ear.

      On the 1st of August I will ask them to take the tube out as the pressure still builds up in my ear, so I think it didn't do its job. I will ask for some tests to rule out a fistula and a patulous tube.

      These are just my findings, but you may respond differently.
       
    3. Dman

      Dman Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown
      I have the same symptom. It started about 2 months ago after a visit to an ENT that cleaned the earwax from my ears with micro suction in one ear that caused hyperacusis and tinnitus in that ear. The popping sound when swallowing is louder and was slightly painful in the beginning in that ear, but is present in both. Went to a second ENT and they found a slight hearing loss in the affected ear and that my nose lining was inflamed. I do have allergies but for some weird reason hadn't had them for over a year. They also said that the popping is normal process of equalizing the air pressure in the ears although I didn't ever notice it before. Was prescribed Prednisone for 2 weeks and a steroid nasal spray.

      The thing that I noticed is that after I drink water or some other liquid the popping becomes much quieter and milder for a while. It has become much milder and much less noticeable after 2 months but it's still there every single time I swallow.
       
    4. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      BrianMo

      BrianMo Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Surgery
      Thank you very much for replying and for sharing your story too. If I may, could I ask you a few questions?

      Did the popping only happen when you moved your face/neck, or did it happen on swallowing as well? Would you say that the sound emanates more from your middle/inner ear, or more from your jaw but that you hear it in your ear?

      That is very interesting that the grommets helped with 99% of the popping. You mentioned that the initial surgery of just making the incision in your eardrum didn’t help the pressure, but did that help the popping? Or was the popping only relieved with the grommet?

      If I may as one more question, did the pulsatile tinnitus only start with the first surgery of the eardrum incision, or did that only occur with the grommet?

      Thank you again for sharing. I will of course continue to share any information I get that might help either of our cases.
       
    5. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      BrianMo

      BrianMo Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Surgery
      Thank you for replying and for sharing your story. It sounds like we share that same frustration of having others tell you that it is normal to have this type of popping. I’ve had 35 years of a baseline to know what normal is, and after 35 years, what I’m experiencing now is definitely not normal, despite others trying to tell us that we are crazy and that the sound has always been there. Maybe the popping is normal, but definitely not to this extent. I never once had to stop in the middle of a sentence and cringe because my ears felt like they were crunching bubble wrap before.

      Your case of microsuction reminded me of something that occurred in my surgery. Before the surgeon cut the tendon, he flooded the then exposed middle ear with water (actually probably saline). I’m not going to pretend like I know how to perform ear surgery, but I have to say that it felt like he used too much. I immediately became dizzy and could hear my heart rate monitor rapidly increasing in the operating room as I started to panic. I told myself that I needed to force myself to remain calm and get on with the procedure, but I still wonder if that caused something similar to what happened to you. Then again, maybe not so in my case since it is now both ears that are effected.

      I’ve noticed something similar about drinking as well. Mine is more so while eating. Eating is pretty much a normal swallow with no noise. Drinking has a noise but much softer. I do feel my ears kind of fill up and while drinking, which at those times, has me sure it’s my Eustachian tubes. Yet other times when doing a normal swallow, it has me sure it’s my TMJ or jaw, as it feels more like the gears are grinding more than my Eustachian tubes.

      Can I ask if you felt that the prednisone helped you? Or was it more just time passing? Do you still take the nasal spray?
       
    6. Dman

      Dman Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown
      I didn't feel immediate results from the Prednisone, so it's hard to tell. I think it's more the passing of time that helped.

      Stopped the steroid nasal spray after a few weeks because it was making my bad ear feel like it's exposed. Maybe some patulous Eustachian tube symptom? Replaced it with saline mist spray and I've been ok since then.
       
    7. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      BrianMo

      BrianMo Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Surgery
      I think I understand the sensation you are describing with feeling how your ear felt exposed. One of the biggest frustrations for me, is that after 5 months now, I still don’t know if I’m fighting an inflamed tube, an open tube, or TMJ.

      I remember I once asked an ENT about this, and it was one who was telling me not to get the Eustachian tube balloon dilation. I asked him, with all the technology that we have, including putting tiny, mini sized cameras in nasal endoscopy devices, is there not a way to to use the same device that is used for dilation, but just put a little light and camera on it, so that you could put it in my tubes, but just not inflate it. That way you could see if something is off and at least rule some things out. You would have thought I was asking him to invent a time machine.
       
    8. Dman

      Dman Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown
      It's criminal how little most ENTs know or care about ear related issues. And how behind research is. I totally lost faith in them since last year when I developed tinnitus out of nowhere in one ear and didn't have a clue what that was. I was sincerely thinking that when I visited an ENT they would cure it. Good luck with that! Was told that I must have been at a loud event although I hadn't and to get used to it. No other info. Thank God that a few months later it disappeared by itself (that's my "good" ear now), but not before I developed severe anxiety.

      People on this forum know much more than most ENTs.
       
    9. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      BrianMo

      BrianMo Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Surgery
      Completely agree about how sad it is that ENTs don’t seem to be helping any of us. All of us who have self taught ourselves about our conditions seem to be helping each other more than our ENTs.
       
    10. REZZ

      REZZ Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      08/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      loud music in one ear and the other one a valsalva
      Hey, there is some popping in my ear when swallowing, but I see this as normal. Not different from before I got ear issues. The loud pop in my ear after moving my head/neck/jaw is much louder, like a balloon bursts near my ear.

      I don't really know if the popping stopped when they made an incision, all I could focus on after the surgery was my ear feeling completely dull and full. The incision healed back within a few days and made also the dull/full feeling go away. I also don't know if I had the pulsatile tinnitus with the incision, like I said it healed within a few days, but I definitely didn't have it when it healed back. Also it isn't really that loud, my 'normal' tinnitus is usually louder so I hear this mostly unless it's super quiet.
       
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