Hope everyone is well lately. No doubt a great many of you missing being able to dive for the last year. Hopefully you'll be able to get back to it soon. It is very quiet here for the last year.
I thought I would give an update to my ear problems. I had a couple of visits to an ENT consultant on the NHS now, which included checking up my nose at the eustachian tube openings, looking into my ears (obviously) and hearing tests and tympanograms (pressure response tests).
At my last visit back in June 2020 I was prescribed a steroid nasal spray called Avamys which contains the ingredient fluticasone furoate. This is meant to reduce inflammation. Ive been taking it daily for the last 7 months now.
I previously would have graded my ability to pop my ears (either manually or passively, i,e through yawning etc) at a 1 out of 10. Now, after using this spray for a while, I would say its improved to say a 4 or 5 out of 10. My left ear now pops far more frequently when yawning, but my right ear is still very variable. I still struggle to manually pop both ears, they are just stuck shut most of the time, I appear to have no/little voluntary control over it.
The consultant today said both eardrums were still visually retracted and that that would never change, because they have moulded into that position over decades now. However in my left ear, the tympanogram test was normal. Type A symmetrical around the 0 position. This is an improvement from last time and consistent with my own experience that it does now pop far more frequently. Unfortunately my right eardrum's pressure response was a type C, negative pressure response. Again consistent with my experience that I find it very difficult to pop this ear. Going into today's appointment my right ear has been pretty stuck now for several days. Perhaps if it had been recently popped, the tympanogram result might have been a bit better, but I couldn't get it to pop at all and its still stuck.
The consultant believes that the eustachian tube dilation operation wouldn't do anything for me, because he believes that the issue is to do with recurring inflammation of the tissue lining deep inside the eustachian tube. This is why the steroid spray is helping a little, reducing the inflammation sometimes. There could be narrowness in there at the bony portion but they don't know this for sure.
We had a good discussion about why my ability to pop my ears is so inconsistent. For example my ears might pop fine one day, yet the next are completely stuck. If the lining of the tube becomes inflamed then it just blocks it up basically, and even if the yawning/throat muscles are pulling at the tube openings, its not enough to break through the inflamed area. Quite why it should be getting inflamed, no-one knows, as I don't have any allergies.
They are discharging me now, and if I have hearing deterioration in future I need to go back through my GP. Its a little disappointing, as I feel that having seen some improvement using the spray, that I was edging towards a better solution. I can continue taking the spray at the same dose indefinitely, it will be added as a repeat prescription for me. When I try to pop my ears I often feel that the eustachian tubes are so close to breaking through, but they just won't quite go. I'm going to continue exercising them, using the spray, perhaps look again at some of the other muscular/throat manipulation techniques. It doesn't really matter that my eardrums are retracted, they're retracted on the surface and they'll be retracted under water, I just need to find a way to get those pesky tubes to open more reliably and let some air in. Haven't given up quite yet, because I know that my eustachian tubes are capable of working when they want to (I did dive to 14m successfully during the course). I just need to carry on searching for a combination/set of techniques that pops those bloody tubes open better.
On a positive note, if I'd have never learnt to dive I'd have probably not discovered this issue until my hearing had deteriorated much worse. So at least now I will be aware of that and on top of it as I get older.