Firstly, I'm not sure if this should be placed under this category although I have seen you answer many other questions regarding ENT.
I have had a cold for 5 days, and last night I had a severe itch in my left ear, itching it ; as you would. 20 minutes later, it popped and it has been muffled, ringing and everything seems 10x louder on the outside! It feels like I am under water. Anyway, I've tried de-congestion sprays etc, and every home rememdy beleived to help, and nothing. I work in a recording studio, meaning my hearing is incredibly needed! When I sleep, if I lie on the side I am troubled with, it minimizing it, but when I return into a different stance/position, it comes back. What is this? I know it wasn't brought on from a mucus build up etc, as it only came when I decided to go in for the itch.

Dear Kim,

You have chosen an excellent category to ask your question.  The two most specialized professionals to address your ear and hearing symptoms are the Audiologist and the Otolaryngologist.  Audiologists (hearing doctors) focus on diagnosis, management, and non-surgical treatment of hearing and balance disorders, while otolaryngologists (ENT physicians) focus on treating infections and disorders of the ear, nose, and throat primarily through medications and surgery.  As you might imagine, audiologists and ENTs typically share an understanding of the other profession and collaborate when appropriate for best patient care.  Roughly 95% of all hearing loss requires audiology services, of which 90% need only audiology services.  Think of your "eye doctor" (optometrist) and ophthalmologist (eye physician) and how they share knowledge of the eye, but differ in skill set--both of which are highly valued.

That being said, my first thought based on your description of symptoms, is that you are experiencing occlusion of the ear canal--most likely from cerumen build-up.  Do you use cotton swabs ("q-tips") regularly or when you itched your ear?  If so, you likely pushed it in further and helped cause the impaction.  Otoscopy (lighted scope to look in ear) would easily identify this problem.  I would recommend you see your local audiologist, ENT, or family doctor to make sure.  If you are set on trying a home remedy, there are many over the counter cerumenolytics (wax softeners) and irrigation (bulb) kits to flush.  However, if not performed correctly, this can actually push wax further down the canal and even onto the eardrum.

Also, I do not know what other home remedies you have tried, but DO NOT use ear candling, as this product is dangerous (burns, candle wax into ear, etc).  The claims of this product have been proven false, yet continue to be sold and used.  Studies measuring the amount of ear wax pre and post are unchanged in trials.  What is confusing to many individuals is that the candle produces some sort of "residue" that is "pulled" from the ear.  THIS IS A BYPRODUCT OF THE BURNING CANDLE.  You can test this for yourself if you do not believe using a glass soda bottle in place of your ear.

Finally, it may not be cerumen that is the problem, and could be fluid behind the eardrum or otitis of the external or middle ear.  Additional reasons why seeing a professional is a good idea.

I hope this helps you and I wish you well.  Please feel free to follow up.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Dr. Clint D. Keifer, Audiologist


I am qualified to answer all questions related to the diagnosis and rehabilitative treatment of hearing and balance disorders. This includes evaluation of hearing and balance, counseling, amplification (hearing aids and assistive devices), tinnitus (noises in head) evaluation and management, cochlear implants, and audiology in general.


I started my career as a hearing instrument specialist (on a trainee license) in 1998. After almost 2 years, I decided that I needed to pursue higher education if I was to provide the best care to hearing impaired patients that I could. In 2007, I completed my Doctor of Audiology and have been providing audiological care for almost 5 years. I have vestibular, cochlear implant, and pediatric experience along with prescribing, fitting, and verification of hearing aid amplification as part of comprehensive hearing loss rehabilitation.

Audiology doctor and owner at Great Lakes Audiology in Toledo, OH. phone: 419 327-2273 website: American Academy of Audiology American Speech-Language Hearing Association Ohio Academy of Audiology

Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Western Michigan University, Speech Pathology and Audiology Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.), Ohio State University Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology (CCC-A)

©2016 All rights reserved.