Thursday, March 24, 2016

Draining the ear

Since the end of February, I have been suffering from a continual infection of the throat and ear. The throat infection was cured by the course of antibiotics which started at the beginning of the month, but this did not cure the ear infection. I started a second course of antibiotics (a different type) last Wednesday which finished a few days ago. A few days after this infection began, my left ear filled with liquid which made hearing very difficult - I referred to this at the time. Whilst the antibiotics healed the infection, they didn't help in draining the liquid from my ear.

A week ago, I drove to Jerusalem for an urgent hearing test (the branch in Bet Shemesh could only offer me an appointment at the end of March); this showed that not only was my hearing greatly impaired by the liquid, there seemed to be some damage to the aural nerve.

I returned to the ENT doctor yesterday; upon seeing those results, he referred me immediately to the emergency room of a Jerusalem hospital. This greatly surprised me; he explained that he didn't have the equipment to effect the necessary treatment, and that going via the emergency room would ensure that I would get treated that same day, as opposed to making an appointment for the ENT clinic in the hospital which might not be for another week. He said that it was essential to get immediate treatment before the nerve damage becomes permanent. Apparently about 1% of all the throat/ear infections develop complications like mine had.

So after lunch, my wife drove me to Jerusalem (I could have driven myself, but I wasn't sure in what state I would be after the treatment; also, I don't like driving whereas she does and she wanted to be with me anyway). We arrived just before 3pm which was rather unfortunate as the ENT clinic formally closes at 3pm; we were assured that there would be a duty doctor who would take care of me. After about an hour of messing around, we finally met this duty doctor.

After taking my case history (despite it being noted by the local ENT doctor), he examined my ears, this time with a much bigger device than the normal one. Then he pushed a fibre optic camera up my left nostril in order to check that there were no problems in the area behind the ear drum where the liquid was (the Eustachian tube); it might have been that there was a blockage here which was preventing the liquid from being released. Everything was normal. This procedure wasn't exactly pleasant but it was very quick.

Once everything had become clear to the doctor, he explained that normally there is a waiting period of about three weeks in which the liquid is expected to drain itself; I said that those three weeks had already passed and that the liquid showed no signs of draining on its own. So we agreed on the treatment: first, a liquid local anaesthetic would be introduced into my ear, then after about fifteen minutes, a small (1 mm diameter) hole would be created in my ear drum with a laser.

The anaesthetic part was ok, the laser part was slightly uncomfortable (pressure in the ear canal) but only lasted a minute, and then the doctor suctioned off the liquid, which fortunately was clear, thus obviating the need for any more treatment.

Since then, the feeling in my ear has been very strange; to be more accurate, the feeling in my ear changes from minute to minute. At the moment, it seems like I can hear extremely well in my left ear (which makes me slightly anxious about my right ear) but some white noise has just returned. I have to shower with ear plugs for the next few days, in order to prevent water getting in the canal and possibly getting through the perforation. This was somewhat comical last night; hopefully tonight will be better.

I have to do another hearing test in about a week and a half and then see the local ENT doctor for final assessment. As it happens, in a week and a half, I will be in Sorrento for a week's holiday, so I have fixed the hearing test for the day after I come back. If there are any problems between now and going away, then I can always return to the emergency room; I hope that nothing develops while I am in Italy!

[Edit: I should point out that I received excellent treatment from the hospital doctor]

No comments: