Ear, Nose and Throat - U.S.A.  (ENT USA) Hints For Patients
Hints for Patients
Hints for Patients
Common Problems & Possible Solutions
The following are some common problems which patients have.  Always consult a physician if any problem persists for more than a few days.

Ear Pain:  Fifty percent of ear pain is not from the ear.  If the pain is from the ear, there will usually be a hearing loss or the ear will be tender to the touch.  If there is not, consider the following: Learn More

In my experience ear pain is commonly caused by arthritis in the jaw or TMJ pain.  For this you should consult a dentist or oral surgeon.  Also, cervical disk disease has been implicated in causing ear pain.  A neurosurgeon can be consulted to evaluate for this condition.  

If the pain is sharp and fleeting this is often caused by musculoskeletal problems. 

If the pain is dull and persistent.  You may have sinus disease, a sinus or throat tumor, tonsillitis or a number of other ear, nose and throat disorders which can refer pain to the ear. 

Itching Ears:
 In my experience this is often caused by an ear fungus.  Over-the-counter lotrimin or tinactin solution may be helpful if placed in the ear two to four times a day.  Do not use this medication if you have a hole in your eardrum.

Ear Wax:  This is a normal finding.  In fact, patients with no ear wax are often miserable and have dry itchy ears.  Too much wax can block the ear canals.  DO NOT USE ear candles or Q-tips.  Neither one can remove wax.  Q-tips will push the wax further into the ear canal and impact it, making it harder to remove.  There are over-the-counter drops which can dissolve and wash out the wax.  Ask your pharmacist about these.  If your ears stay blocked or start to hurt, consult an ear, nose and throat doctor.  

Ear Ringing:  Ringing may be hissing, buzzing or a cricket sound.  This is most often caused by a hearing loss.   Learn More

However, if the sound pulsates with your heart you may have a blockage in your carotid artery (the large artery going to the brain), a heart murmur or rarely a vascular tumor next to the ear.  Other signs of concern is if the ringing is louder or only in one ear.  This can be a sign of a unilateral or asymmetrical hearing loss.  Ear growths such as an acoustic neuroma can cause this and patients need to be to be evaluated to make sure they do not have this benign tumor. 

The best treatment is to mask the sound with a fan or air filter at night.  A hearing aid may also help.  Often the sounds are produced in the brain from spontaneous firing of the nerves.  When nerves are not stimulated, they fire spontaneously.  The same happens to the auditory nerves in the brain when they do not receive stimulation because of a hearing loss.  Exposing the ears to sounds may not only mask the tinnitus but actually decrease it by stimulating the auditory nerves in the brain. 

Dizziness:  There are many causes of dizziness besides the ear.  If the dizziness is a sensation of motion especially if associated with ear ringing, pressure or hearing loss a visit to an ear, nose and throat doctor is warranted.  However, if it is light headedness, loss of control of the body, or passing out you may have a heart or vascular problem or even a neurological problem such as a brain tumor.  In this case, consulting your family doctor first is the best course. Learn More

Lump in the Throat: 
This is often caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.  Some patients with reflux do not have any heartburn or chest discomfort.  Their only symptoms are those which occur when the stomach acid causes muscle spasms in the lower neck.   Learn More

Home remedies include the avoidance of spicy foods, elevation of the head of the bed at night and avoid eating and drinking for two hours before retiring at night.  Also, over-the-counter antacids or prilosec may be helpful.  You should consult a doctor immediately if there are any persistent symptoms, chest or arm pain.  GERD and heart disease can have similar symptoms and should not be confused. 

Other danger signs which need to be evaluated by an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor:

  • Sudden onset of paralysis of the face.
  • Hoarseness lasting longer than two weeks.
  • Neck mass or bump lasting longer than two weeks.
  • Nonhealing sore in the mouth or on the skin.

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Page Last Updated 08/24/2023 
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