I thought I had an ear infection in February, but I had also accidentally poked the ear with a Q-tip when Rosie rammed into me while I was cleaning it. A visit to the doctor reported a clear ear drum but redness around the ear canal, and pain when they tugged on my ear. They prescribed antibiotic ear drops. It sort of got better, but not completely. Repeated visits to the doctor got me gradually stronger antibiotics, and in the meantime I started to suffer tinnitus, odd hearing effects, and then hearing loss. The doctor reported the ear canal plugged up with white build-up, and referred me to an ENT. The ENT office offered me an appointment in _July_. Attempts to get the doctor's office to negotiate an earlier appointment initially failed. The ENT office put me on their triage waiting list.
Meanwhile, I complained on Facebook, and someone said they had a similar problem and it turned out to be a yeast infection, so I looked that up and called the doctor's office about it. And a friend who is a massage therapist recommended I see her for lymph drainage therapy, which improved the tinnitus considerably. I started drying the ear out more in case it was a fungal infection (typified by white build-up and hearing loss)- putting a cotton ball in while showering, and rinsing with one part vinegar, one part rubbing alcohol. My hearing started to improve.
The doctor's office had me in to see a different doctor, who reported there were now two holes in the crust, and she was worried I might have a pierced eardrum, and couldn't prescribe any treatment until that question was resolved. She got my ENT appointment moved up to the following Monday.
So... yesterday I got a hearing test and saw the ENT. The hearing test reported some high frequency hearing loss in both ears, slightly worse in my right ear, which I knew (I burst that ear drum once in high school). Otherwise, the nerve response is fine in the right ear. Bone conduction hearing on the rt is MUCH better than hearing conducted through the ear canal. Not able to get the ear drum to move at all. Hearing through the ear canal is not good.
The Doctor worked on manually removing the crust in my right ear with tools, which hurt like the dickens. After he suctioned what he could away, he could see the ear drum - the otoscope image was up on the wall, so I could see it too. The ear drum is lying limply against the bones of the middle ear. It is not taut like it should be, which means it is either stretched or pierced. But if the ear was pierced, I probably would have tasted the vinegar I've been rinsing it out with, which I haven't. He has no way of knowing how the ear drum was before February, so he doesn't know if it's been that way for a long time
He didn't see any of the structures he expected to see if it was a fungal infection. Said the crust looked more like a buildup of skin cells. He's going to have me flush my ear out with a mix of vinegar and warm water once daily for a month to try to clear out the rest of the crustiness, then see me again and see if the eardrum looks any better. If not, he might refer me to an ear surgeon.
I'm also getting another round of lymph drainage therapy on Thursday, because that was terrific. The therapist is Sarah Musil, and I can't recommend her highly enough.