Plugged Ear

What is that? Speak up, I can’t hear you to well today. I seemed to be saying this quite a lot the last few days and especially today. I have had a little cold or allergy issue, I am not really sure which, but it has my right ear plugged up. I have tried everything mechanical to try to get it to open up and drain. I talked last night about how important or wonderful the feeling of mud is to kids. In the same token one of the most “aaahhh” moments in life is when your ear feels plugged and it suddenly opens up and the pressure and hearing return. This feeling is one of immense gratitude towards a silly little tube in the body.

One of the worst times to have that plugged ear feeling is when you have to go on an airplane ride or you live in the Rockies and have numerous passes you must cross in some driving journey. I can remember many times growing up that the trips out of Steamboat entailed some amount of marked discomfort as you ascended or descended out of or into town. One particular time I remember the two years after I graduated college. Brooke and I had been apart quite a bit for the year as I was working in Steamboat and she was still in school in Gunnison. We were headed back to Alaska for the summer. She had a tough schedule and I had been working a lot and preping and taking the MCAT ( a ridiculous test, a hoop to jump through really to see if you are crazy enough for medical school).

We were both stressed out and glad to be done with the intensity for a while as we headed back to Alaska. We both got the “let down cold.” The stress was gone and our bodies over compensated relaxation let some routine virus get out of control. We were both stuffy, runny nose, coughing and ear plugged. I so vividly remember the drive to Denver with our ears releasing and stopping up. The pressure would build creating that nagging feeling of you head being a tunnel with unneeded echos and the inability to hear what you want. We broke down and actually tried using some Afrin before we flew. I do not remember any great relief and I do remember not being overly impressed with the effect. We did make it and the repeated feeling of the popping ears was maddening and at the same time so relieving.

I haven’t had a lot of problems with little viruses since my immune system went haywire with Leukemia. I did have one pretty memorable stretch last year after the  second round of chemo where the Seattle team was convinced I had some fungal lung infection and repeated threatened me with a bronchoscopy. Eventually a virus was diagnosed and I did improve. Ever since then though when I do get some upper respiratory junk or crude my right ear seems to like to just shut off. The Eustachian tube just doesn’t want to open up. So now I spend a half hour before I fall asleep trying to force yawns, swallow hard, do the forced ear pop with increased pressure (blowing your nose with it pinched off), and just repeated positional changes. To no avail though my ear remains plugged. I have a little ringing which is annoying but I guess I can cope. Hey, what was that I just heard? For all I know someone just came into our house. I hope not because I sure can’t tell.  If you see me speak up.

Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.


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