Why can’t I hear right? Stephanie researches her ears.

by Stephanie Chasteen on July 12, 2010

[[NOTE:  The update on my symptoms and the resulting diagnosis is in the comments if you’re curious.  I get a lot of comments on this post asking for updates, so please look in the comments for the answer!]]

I’ve had the most distressing symptoms over the past week, which sparked my biophysics curiosity.  At first I thought that I was just groggy and out of sorts.  Then I realized that my head didn’t just feel like it was stuffed with cotton, it sounded like it was stuffed with cotton.  I felt disoriented, my head was a bit stuffy, and things didn’t sound quite right.  I was talking to my boyfriend on the phone, and I asked him, “Are you OK?  You sound really weird.”  He sounded like he had a really bad head cold.  He swore he was fine.  He sounded fine when I talked to him in person.  Talking to him on the phone later, he sounded strange again.

Ever the scientist, I realized I needed to try varying some parameters.  I switched the phone to my other ear.  He sounded fine.  Back to my left ear:  He sounded like his nose was plugged.  Back to my right ear:  Normal.  So, there was something odd about my left ear.  It seemed to be cutting out all the high frequencies.  Am I becoming deaf to high frequencies in my left ear?

Later, I go to the climbing gym.  There are many small children laughing.  The high tones in their voices sound weird, mechanical, and like they’re vibrating in the very back of my left ear.  Everything with a high pitch has a mechanical whine that sounds like it’s coming from behind my left shoulder.  Disconcerting.  Weird. And seemingly totally at odds with my observation that my left ear is cutting out the high frequencies on the phone.

I start to notice how different men’s and women’s voices differ.  Men’s voices sound mostly normal.  Women’s voices create that mechanical buzz and are difficult to listen to.  Ambient sound has similar high-pitched buzzes.  I’ve developed my own internal high-frequency monitoring device.  I’m less than thrilled.

So, I go to the doctor to find out what the heck is going wrong with me.  He’s totally gorgeous, a nice perk in the midst of my health troubles.  More science ensues.  He taps a tuning fork on the table and holds it by my left ear (the one that’s acting strangely).  I wince with the loudness of the sound.  He taps it again and holds it against the bone behind my ear.  Is it louder then?  No.  He does the same with my right ear.


  • When the tuning fork is held next to my ear, it’s louder in my left than the right
  • When the tuning fork is held on the bone behind my ear, it’s similar loudness in both ears.

So, what’s that mean?  Because it sounds the same when the sound is traveling through my bone rather than through the air, that means that there’s nothing wrong with my auditory nerve (whew!)  But it sounds different when traveling through the air, so that means that something is selectively amplifying the high frequencies as they travel from the air to my auditory nerve.

Apparently what’s wrong is that my eustachian tubes are blocked, creating a high pressure area inside the canals of my ear.  Usually I could clear my ears (getting that “pop”) to equalize the pressure, but if it’s swollen (like if you have a cold) then it’s hard to get my ears to pop.

What struck me about all this experimentation was just how much the scientific method came into play — observe, test, try changing variables, compare.  You can find out a lot just by thoughtfully testing different parameters.

The cute doctor didn’t have much to say about why this caused the odd pitch distortions, so I batted my eyes at him and went off to do my own research.

First, what about when I hear the odd buzzing amplification of high pitched sounds in the air? In that case, the sound must travel through the air to the tympanic membrane, or eardrum.  The eardrum is what transfers the sound from the air to the little bones of the ear (the hammer, anvil and stirrup).  If the eustachian tube is swollen, that restricts the movement of the eardrum.  But that seems like it would reduce my sensitivity to high frequencies, not increase it.  Perhaps, instead, the high pitched vibrations of the eardrum are somehow amplified, maybe via a resonance.  Perhaps the swollen eustachian tube has tuned my hearing to be more sensitive to higher pitches than the normal human ear?

Apparently there is a rare condition where, instead of the tube being swollen shut, the tube is left open, which allows the sound of your own breathing and heartbeat to move from the body directly to the eardrum, so you hear the amplified echo of your own voice and breath.  (Strange medical note:  A new procedure to relieve those symptoms involves placing a small piece of Blu-Tack on the eardrum to muffle the sounds.  “The Blu-Tack has to be replaced at regular intervals,” says Wikipedia.  Ugh.  I guess I could have it worse.

What about when I talk on the phone, and my boyfriend sounded like he had a cold because all the high frequencies were reduced?  In that case, I think, the sound is traveling partially through the air and partially through the bones of my skull. A dampening of the movement of the eardrum by the swollen eustachian tube might explain that (though it wouldn’t explain why the same isn’t true when I’m not talking on the phone, as above).  Or, perhaps, the high-frequency sensitivity only happens with frequencies that are not contained in my boyfriend’s voice.  Perhaps some high frequencies are being amplified, and the rest are cut out?

Obviously, I haven’t managed to find an ultimate answer to my queries.  If anybody has any ideas, or insider knowledge, please share.  This has made me very curious.  If I’m going to be suffering, I might as well learn something new about my body!

Image: Perception Space—The Final Frontier, A PLoS Biology Vol. 3, No. 4, e137 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030137 ([1]/[2]), vectorised by Inductiveload

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{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Melissa Zanassi September 1, 2012 at 1:08 am

I have to say it’s refreshing to know I’m not going insane, though I don’t have medical at the moment to have my hearing tested. it’s added to an already difficult anxiety issue I have around crowds, the only time I had any relief was last winter I had a bad head cold and my ears were plugged. I noticed in going out that day I didn’t have /as much/ problems though still a small bit. And was actually able to spend an hour and and about on a saturday semi enjoying myself. It’s to the point right now where even the voices of my parents, (my mother who has a lyrical but sometimes high pitched voice will come across sometimes like her nails are scratching across my eardrum and it gives me headaches. Though not all the time. And my dad who’s going partially deaf due to excessive time driving truck and insists on having the TV turned up to where others outside can hear it with all the windoes closed and then will yell into the phones at the same time or just while talking in general. So I’ve had constant headaches for a long time, it’s only been in the last four years I’ve had anyone attribute any of my issues to sound so I’ve been making logs.). Anything you can think of that may help me in dimming these sounds would be helpful, I wear headphones while not even listening to anything just to drown out the noises. When I go to bed I have to have the TV on in my room otherwise the sounds of anyone movinfg around, driving by or a cat going through the leaves will wake me up. Some days, i’ll tell you it’s exc rusiating cause it will delve into migraine mode and when I end up in a house full of people when all I want to do is love myself in a small room an make the world go away.

Did they happen to check to see if youhad any odd growths on the bone behind your eardrum?

avatar Tamara September 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm

First of all, THANK YOU to everyone who has posted here. It seems as if it has taken me forever to find you. And although I wish it was not this difficult challenge that led me to this site, I am thankful beyond muffled, duo-toned words to have found it! This is my third bout with this in the last ten years but by far this is the longest. The first time the funky hearing would come and go over a couple of hours….eventually they diagnosed those as atypical migraines that sit on my auditory nerve. So I went on migraine meds and it helped ALOT. Then I got an attack that was more like whooshing and severe hearing loss…that was a virus that was almost immediately relieved by steroids. This time, I’ve had the distorted hearing for nearly 10 days. So far, the steroids haven’t really helped although some days are better than others. The MRI today showed normal so we are back to the migraine and/or virus prognosis. But this time is very different and in a significant way….I’m not as scared. Admittedly, the first time I thought I was gonna lose it. But this time, I almost feel empowered by the lack of anxiety – although it is irritating! And finding this site where people talk about feeling better and how no one is alone with this leads me back to the beginning. Thank you.
And to echo(pun intended) the words of my predecessors on this page….it does get better! Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal and adapt. Believe it because it’s true…

avatar Todd Bader October 25, 2012 at 2:37 am

Thank you for your post on this issue. I’ve been dealing with the same funky out-of-tune hearing problem for about 15 years, I believe. It is VERY frustrating because I am, ironically, a musician, and it gets me at the worst possible times (sometimes during a performance). I rely on hearing perfect pitches to play and sing perfect pitches, but I have to just temporarily stop playing or singing, if possible, because the sound I’m hearing is awful and inaccurate! Women and children sound like robots, high pitches are like nails on a chalkboard, and my left ear gets very sensitive to loud volumes. I asked a doctor what I might be, but I actually found out more about it by a quick Google search than the costly office visit. It’s nice to know that there are people out there who are in the same position I am. Thanks for your research!

avatar Glynnis November 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I’m looking for a cure. Can any one help?

avatar Darcey February 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm


I’ve had this for about 10 years in my right ear, I just thought, oh well, 1 ear down 1 to go. And over the last couple of days it got worse again.

In my right ear everything above 6khz is 1/2 volume or lower and constantly feels blocked.

My symptoms and thoughts:

1. Slight imbalancement to the right (it’s in my right ear)

2. Feeling ear is blocked or needs to be yawned open all the time

3. Tried otex, this gave me vertigo and it was much worse after.

4. Doc game me drops, eczema in the ear he said, done nothing, but did remove a blockage on top of what I got already.

5. If I stick my finger in either ear and jiggle it about, both are at same volume?

6. I done a frequency test using winamp (pc music playing software) and some music using the graphic equaliser while having my left ear plugged to keep sound out. 6Khz to 16Khz frequencies is where the trouble starts, the last 3 sliders my right ear can’t hear the difference from min and max on the EQ adjustment.

7. Crystalisation of sound within the frequencies stated in point no 3 – this to me suggests that the sound is passing through something it shouldn’t be or is getting interpreted wrong.

8. If I have a cold or head cold, if I was to hold on to the rubber assist with my right hand of the escalator at the top I could hear everyone whom taps or bangs the rubber assist nearly all the way to the bottom. This is an effect of sound travelling through water / more solid atoms. So it makes me think there is something, a liquid, gel or some substance which shouldn’t be in there somewhere that needs to be removed.

9. Some days I have tinnitus in the frequencies my right ear can no longer hear, and it varies on if I’ve had a bad nights sleep or not. Could it be related to blood pressure? Something pushing on something? I can only assume BP is higher when you wake up feeling like you still need a decent sleep.

And what did the doc say about all this? Nothing we can do about that…

So here I am 10 years later…

Anyone been able to fix this?

Someone mentioned listening to pitches the same pitch as the tinnitus sound in your ear will help, I tried it with a variable pitch signal generator on my right ear and listened to the sound for about 30 mins each day and it did nothing.

There is also tapping techniques, but this is all about focus of your mind and attention trickery, not actually a cure.

Anyone been lucky enough to get this fixed?

avatar Sonia March 24, 2013 at 8:50 am

Hi I woke up this morning thinking 2 of my baby’s were crying 2 find out it was only 1 of them and he sounded so strange at first I panicked trying 2 work out what was wrong with him until I realised it was me then I panicked again, this is such a strange sensation every thing sound echoey and tinny it is giving me a headache nd I have 2 deal with 2 high pitched children which isn’t helping me at all, so glad I found this site it’s helped calm me but as I’m due 2 fly 2 Tunisia in a few wks I hope it’s a short lived problem

avatar Eck April 26, 2013 at 3:34 pm

More tests…. FOR SCIENCE!!!!

Maybe your boyfriend’s voice is different on the phone because you held the phone up to your head and the vibrations traveled through your phone/hand/head. Try holding the phone away from your head the next time he calls. Also try speaker phone and blocking each ear with your finger.

I stumbled across this post because my daughter has a similar issue. We’re heading to the doctor Wed. I hope it’s something like this. :)

– Eck

P.S. My first blog post ever. :P

avatar Hillary June 18, 2013 at 5:28 am

I`m SOO glad I found this post. I really thought I was losing it. It is such a strange sensation it is hard to describe. It has only happened to me twice and only for a couple of hours. I am so tahnkful that it hasn`t been any longer. Bless your souls! It is so annoying! But it was almost worth seeing the look on my husband`s face when I told him that it sounded like a robot was echoing everything out of tune. I do have one question. Does anybody else also hear it when you, yourself, talk?

avatar Niya August 6, 2013 at 11:44 pm

There’s been reports around the world of this.

avatar Shawn August 10, 2013 at 2:09 am

Hey folks,
I posted on here two years ago when this first started happening to my ear. I’m glad to see that this thread is still alive and kicking, this is a gold mine of a find to people who are just starting to experience these frightening symptoms.

As for an update, 30 months later, I still have the buzzing in my ear, and to a lesser extent, the sound distortion. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten worse over time, in fact, I would say it has gotten a little better. Female voices and children don’t sound as shrill as they used to, and the buzzing is less frequent.

When this first started, I never thought I would adjust. It stressed me out so much. I did tireless research on google, and I think that just ended up making my paranoia worse. But now I truly believe in the coping and healing powers of the human body. To those who are worried that it will affect your personality (being a fun and sociable person), you will adjust. I know it sounds impossible now, but eventually you will find ways to cope and even forget about your problem for most of your day. For example, I have a floor fan always running in my room. When this first started, falling asleep was the hardest part. It was impossible to not be aware of the strange noise in my ear. But having a fan on has helped tremendously. Consider getting one if you haven’t yet.

I hope one day it will disappear completely. I will keep you all posted. Thank you Stephanie for this thread!!

PS. Niya, there have been reports? I’m curious to see these. Will you post a link?

avatar Dot August 17, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I too have these robot/’tinny sounds in my left ear when people are talking. especially on the TV. . I find It hard to make out what they are saying. I am hard of hearing in my right ear, but me left ear was OK until I got this. It started a few weeks ago for 3 days then it slowly cleared. I then had it for one day when I was on holiday and thought maybe the music at the entertainment I went to was too loud and had caused it, but after that one day it cleared itself until today when I have it again. I hope it clears as I am going to a family BBQ tomorrow, but find it really hard to make conversation as I can’t make out what people are saying unless they talk looud and slowly.

avatar Ellie October 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Isn’t it awful. I feel like I have a darlek from dr who in my head. People’s voices who I have known for years for instance my parents, now sound like robot strangers. I’m scared I’m never going to be able to speak like me again. I burst my ear drum with a bad chest/ear infection. Since then my right ear has been destroyed with appallingly loud tinnitus and this robotic feedback. I’m in limbo I hate silence as it strengthens my tinnitus yet I hate noise as all I can hear is that awful helium voice. I’m scared, this thing it’s never going to go away or get better. I’m trapped in my own body with some strange alien voice and all I did was suffer a common infection. Life really is over

avatar Anna October 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm

I have all of the same symptoms as most describe except it is my low tones that I am losing. Actually both ears are slowly losing hearing.

I have had all of the testing by numerous specialists, Scan for brain tumor by a neurosurgeon, Vestibular tests and therapy. Lasix for trying to clear any possible inner ear fluid. Have even tried hearing aids. Everything magnifies the heavy sharp sounds in my ears. I tried aids with the amplifier behind the ear against the conductive bone and everything that touched the amplifier, finger, hair glasses, etc., makes a scratching sound.

I am completely whipped. Can’t find a solution but can’t stop looking for a solution.

avatar Rosemary October 23, 2013 at 2:47 am

I had a sinus operation and when I came out of it, my left ear was blocked. I had a hearing test and it wasn’t good. Then a couple of months later, I had another hearing test and my ear seem to unblock and the hearing was acceptable. Since May my left ear has been blocked and now over the last two weeks my tinnitus is through the roof and it feels as if there is a blockage there. I am going bananas about this and don’t know what to do.

avatar Deborah November 30, 2013 at 6:03 pm

It was very helpful to find this thread. Many thanks to you, Stephanie, for taking a thoughtful approach to your problem and to sharing it. And to everybody else for keeping the conversation going.

I woke up last Saturday morning with an echo in my right ear. I was (and still am) hearing high frequency sounds both when they occur and again about (to my best estimate) about a tenth of a second later. It makes my six-year-old daughter’s voice especially challenging to listen to :-( I ignored it for the first few days because my husband said he’d had something similar a few days earlier that just went away on its own. But my mom was visiting and she insisted that I see a doctor. So I did. That was two days before Thanksgiving. My regular doctor wasn’t available so I was seen by her colleague at the clinic. I’d say that visit was useless, except that doc’s surprise at my symptom made me think I might have something rare and worth worrying about. He recommended I see an ENT, but conveyed no urgency, so the clinic offered me an appointment 3 weeks out. I decided I didn’t want to live with the echo for 3 weeks, and I had a bit of cash left in my FSA, so I looked up an ENT on the internet using ZocDoc and booked myself an appointment for the next day.

Now that was a useful thing to have done! The ENT first pressed around my head and determined that I had no sinus issues. Then he held a tuning fork in front of each ear, and determined that I could hear equally well in both ears that way. Then he held the tuning fork to the bone behind each ear, and I was surprised that I was unable to hear the fork when placed behind my left ear! Finally he threaded a fiberoptic up my nose, through my sinuses (no pain, felt kind of like an annoying booger), took a look at the opening to my left eustachian tube, and determined that everything looked good. He suspected Sudden Sensorineuronal Hearing Loss but said he would require a complete Audiogram and tympanogram to make the diagnosis. He conveyed some mild urgency, but it was close to 5pm on the day before Thanksgiving and there were no audiologists to be found. In retrospect, I could and maybe should have pressed him to hook me up with someone, but I had traveled about 1 hr from home to see him, and he didn’t have any contacts close to where I live, so I decided to head home and do my best to arrange a test for myself. I searched for audiologists on google maps, called the one closest to my home and booked an appointment for the following Wednesday (their first available) with a request to be called on Monday if anything opened up.

That night, unable to sleep, I found/read this blog and read about SSNHL on the website of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute (http://www.masseyeandear.org/for-patients/patient-guide/patient-education/diseases-and-conditions/sudden-deafness/), which convinced me of the urgency of the situation. The website was particularly clear: sudden onset of hearing loss/anomoly constitutes a “true ear emergency”. This emboldened me to call/e-mail the audiologist I’d booked the following (Thanksgiving!) morning, asking for a more timely appointment. When I didn’t hear back before noon on Thanksgiving, I decided I’d have to be more aggressive, and called nearly all the audiologists in my area. (Most have yet to get back to me.) By 1 pm, I was noticing a low-pitched hum in my left ear, so I picked one audiologist (the only one with a PhD in our area, which I thought a good distinguishing characteristic for someone likely to be sympathetic to an obscure condition), looked him up in the white pages, called him at home and begged him to test me or refer me to someone who would. Bless his heart, he answered my plea and agreed to test my hearing the following day. I let my ENT know (by leaving a message at his office number) and managed to enjoy an echo-y thanksgiving dinner.

The audiologist was perfectly thorough and kind. (I took care to be ahead of time for my appointment and bought a couple high-quality chocolate bars to leave behind as an expression of my gratitude. ) The hearing test confirmed a neuronal basis for my hearing loss, with a strange profile, reduced by 40dB in the high and low frequencies, normal in the mid-range. The tympanogram was normal in the left ear but, strangely, showed unusually low pressure in the right ear. The audiologist gave me a copy of my results and I asked for his recommendations of a local ENT who I might go to for a second opinion.

After I left his office, I realized that my ENT had called during the hearing test, leaving a message on my cell, hoping to talk to the audiologist directly about my test results (a sign of a good doctor in my opinion! I have to say, my experience with doctors on ZocDoc has been 2/2 so far.) I went back and caught the audiologist before he’d left to let him know and he said the ENT could call him at home to discuss, so I left a message with the audiologists home phone number on the ENT’s voicemail. After they connected, the ENT called me to get my pharmacy info and sent in a prescription for prednisone.

So that’s where I am right now. Just started prednisone about 12 hours ago. No noticeable change in my hearing yet. I booked a follow up with the ENT for monday. Will post here, if nobody minds. Feels both like giving back, and like a good way to keep track for myself.

For any of the technically minded, I’ve also found two good articles in the primary medical literature: one on SSNHL published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2008 by Rauch (a Harvard MD specializing in the subject), and one on coriticosteroid treatments of SSNHL from a specialty journal published in 2012. The latter isn’t really useful for the lay-person, but for a fellow scientist it is interesting to see/appreciate how little is known for certain, and how difficult it is to figure out what is really going on and improve treatments. Despite the present uncertainty and slim prospects for progress on a time scale that will improve my condition, I personally find it heartening to know there are serious researchers out there trying to tackle the problem in a rigorous way.

avatar Sandra December 29, 2013 at 2:52 am

I was doing an online search for some information hoping that it would help me come to grips with a hearing problem I have. It is strange – mine, that is.

I have no headaches, no nausea, no dizziness, no physical discomfort at all. None. It happens only sporadically, not consistent to time or place.

What happens is that occasionally when I am talking with a person and he/she is telling me something, suddenly their voice sounds are garbled – I can hear the sounds but they make no sense. When this episode passes I can understand clearly. I have noticed this is more likely to happen when I am on the phone listening with my left ear. When it happens I will move the receiver to my right ear and there is no problem. This problem is not always present, just now and then. I do not have any other physical or mental, or emotional problems – although I am getting a tad bit disturbed with these episodes wondering if I am going crazy, I am healthy, 66 years old.

Anybody hear of anything like this before? I would love to know…

avatar raj January 19, 2014 at 5:57 am

hi…I am 28 now, i had tinnitus in my left ear with a complete hearing loss at the age of 15 ..my right ear was good and efficient, i had problems like i always walk being on the left side of a person, sit to the left of friends, i cant decide a approaching sounds direction either and for tinnitus the buzzing sound has become a part of life i learned to live with it….but from last 2 days i hear the sounds robotic in my right ear ….like any woofer sounds or a distant sounds sound robotic to me…however i dont have any problem when i speak over the phone or when i plug in my ear phone…i am afraid that do i have to loose my only hearing ear?? really worried !

avatar S.goa January 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Dear All… I had similar problem where i heard a robotic mixed tone when hearing through my right ear. The tone was more profound while hearing a woman’s voice than a man’s. I do not know the solution to this but personally, for me, the situation rectified itself in 4 months after regularly cleaning my ear and removing as much wax out as possible. Hope this helps.

avatar David February 2, 2014 at 2:07 am

I lost my hearing in about 30 minutes. I have worn a hearing aid in my right ear and the technician turned the sound on it wide open to try to stimulate the ear. Everything sounds like a robot or digital signal. The ENT I go to say that there is not a thing he can do about it. I hope someone comes up with a solution., but with a hearing aid everything sounds like a robot.

avatar Marie February 12, 2014 at 9:21 pm

I had the same issue and was told I had an infection. I was put on 10 days of the antibiotic Biaxin and it definitely got better. I am on day 8 now and just had a visit to the osteopath but for whatever reason after hearing great after the treatment, the sounds and high pitch sounds have gotten worse. I am so depressed as I was feeling so much better in general. I have yet to try the steroid spray the doctor gave me and told me to use if I felt like I had reached a plateau on the antibiotic. I may try that next….

avatar Daniel April 8, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Hey, I just came home from my job and suddenly everything sounds muffled in my left ear and when people talk I sometimes hear a high pitch whistle, also if I whistle I hear my original one plus a higher pitch one. I read the posts here but was wondering if others would give me an idea of what I should do :/

avatar Jordan June 7, 2014 at 1:01 am

Hey All. Have been having the same problems myself. When I read Darcey’s post it’s almost a bang-on description of what I have.

I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed right away that my right ear was muffled. I always run a fan in my room for background noise and this time I could barely hear it in my right ear. I went to the closest doctor to my house and they said they couldn’t see anything (wrong) in my ear and prescribed me some antibiotic drops for ear infection( even though I showed no symptoms of an ear infection). To make a long story short I ended up struggling to get an answer from this doctor for over a week (3 visits in that time).

I kind of got the feeling this guy didn’t know what he was doing so I tried a new doctor. This guy seemed much more informative and referred me to a hearing clinic right away. I went for tests and it showed that my right ear was barely picking up low frequency noises anymore. He prescribed a nasal spray saying it could possibly clear a blockage in my middle ear. This was just something we thought to try since we weren’t sure that was the problem (unfortunately you can’t see past the ear drum without special equipment). Since then he has referred my to an ENT specialist who I am still waiting to call me back for an appointment. I took the nasal spray for about a month and it doesn’t seem to have done anything. Disappointing to say the least.

It has now been just over 2 months since this first occurred. I started getting bad tinnitus about 4 days after it started and about a week later the echoes began. I feel for any fellow sufferers as this really sucks to deal with. After my third hearing test (yesterday) the doctor finally told me the most likely cause was damage to the hair-like nerve cells in my inner ear. I found out after doing some internet research, that if you ever have a sudden hearing loss like that to TREAT IT LIKE AN EMERGENCY.

What bothered me the most was the lack of urgency ALL of the doctors I saw seemed to have. I really feel like they let me down here, even screwed me over. Some treatments of these problems if started immediately (within a couple days to a week) and dramatically reduce or sometimes even cure the problem. If you wait any longer than that thought the damage is permanent. If anyone reading these posts has been having these issues get serious help IMMEDIATELY. Go to a doctor and demand to see an ENT asap. Don’t wait for a bunch of antibiotics and sprays to hopefully work and find three weeks later that it’s too late. The reality now is starting to set in for me and I have to say it’s a pretty terrible feeling.

avatar Jeff June 11, 2014 at 5:37 am

Jordan, I woke up one morning with symptoms similar to yours. I went on a low sodium diet and diuretic and saw improvement over several months. I also started seeing NUCCA chiropractor. Two and a half years later I’m off of the diuretic and diet and my hearing has improved somewhat. For 15 years I’ve had alignment problems, one leg shorter than the other, and that’s improved as well. Essentially even though I never had vertigo, I treated it like Menieres and saw improvement. The NUCCA chiropractor was a hunch and seems to help as well but I can’t prove it. Hope you find relief.

avatar Nick P June 14, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Hello! can anyone help?

I woke up a week ago with a highpitch frequency sound like a whistle or a sqreach or a ringy kinda sound in my right ear, (not tinnitus, only with noise from outside my ear) loud noise or when i talk above a certain level..it seems my hearing is fine but when i talk above a certain level or people are talking to me or if im on the phone holding it close to my right ear i get that annoying highpitch noise. hearing in both ears seems perfectly equal but its only my right ear that is affected with it. its been a week, i went to the doc and they gave me a referal to an ENT doc but havnt scheduled it yet. it does feel like my right ear feels full and ache. ive had ear problems for some years with cracking when i swallow and some tinnitus and eustachian tube disfunction ect ect but this is different.. its totally in my hearing..
ive searched my symptom and cant find anything anywhere.. any help would be sooo appreciated thanks Nick P

avatar Deborah June 14, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Get to an ENT asap. If you can’t book an appointment withing few days, make one with an audiologist anyway and get a thorough hearing/speech recognition test done – that’ll be good to have on hand when you see the ENT, and the audiologist will be able to tell you if you should demand to be seen/treated urgently. Sudden sensory neural hearing loss is considered an audiological emergency and, as Jordan says above, getting on steroids within a week or two of symptom onset can make the difference between total recovery and permanent hearing loss.

It may not seem like hearing loss (deafness) because you still can hear stuff, but you be going deaf to only some frequencies (eg high pitches), which can cause auditory illusions like the high pitch noise you describe. (These are kind of like optical illusions: your brain makes a strange interpretation of the input it’s getting from your ear, which isn’t really what your ear is hearing). Some subset of your nerve cells that are responsible for hearing in one ear may be inflamed or otherwise under pressure, and those nerve cells are prone to dying when mechanically disturbed like that for long periods of time. Current thinking is that relieving that pressure (via medication like a steroid) is key to keeping them alive. You can read more about SSNHL here


avatar Tobi July 17, 2014 at 5:13 pm

My turn now! This really is a nightmare. I see some encouraging recovery stories here, and i have to hold on to them.

I had a terrible ear infection with a ruptured eardrum and fluid two weeks ago, and have since lost my hearing at about 50% in my left ear. The low tones seem to have suffered the most damage. Fluid apparently has cleared, eardrum healed, and an audiogram later, i have been diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss. I am really struggling as it is torture with all of the echoey stuff going on, all of the whistles and reflective sounds, esp when my two young girls chatter. I can’t hear well in crowds, its like I am in a canary house! I have pretty poor word discrimination and people sound like robots in that ear. My poor ear! Its clearly not happy in there.

I have a family to take care of and try to keep my chin up. Am on steroids now for two weeks, and am tapering today. Apparently the second hearing test showed some slight improvements in the high tones. I never thought hearing tests could be so interesting to examine and puzzle over, as I never was a huge science geek, but boy, is the ear beginning to be interesting!

Stephanie, i really appreciate your writing about this. Its nice to hear you have improved, it gives me hope!

Doctors seem a bit grim in some ways, giving stats out that whatever improvement I reach by 6-8 weeks will likely be what I am left with, but from the sounds of what you and others here are posting, improvement can come even later, much later! So I will try to focus on that.

avatar Jolene July 26, 2014 at 6:13 am

I have had this for two days! People’s voices sound metalic or like they are talking through a fan. My ears are clogged. I feel like I have water in them. I went to the doctor today and she told me that mucus is probably stuck. She gave me antibiotics. (I’ve been taking musinex) and told me to also take sudafed. She reccomend me going to an ear, nose and throat doctor. This is seriously the weirdest sensation. I am glad to have come accross your post!

avatar Ray August 6, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Today, I met with a third ENT doctor regarding similiar issues as described by other posters. The prognosis: live with it or get hearing aids. WOW! This issue of stuffy head: loss of normal hearing in one ear; static like sounds; amplified sounds (paticularly in noisy places likes restaruants); etc. has most, if not all, doctores mystified. Like others, my difficulties came on suddenly. One day I could hear but needed my ears cleaned of wax buildup. After the procedure, BINGO, I had a severe hearing loss in my right ear. The ENT prescribed prednisone, followed by Flonaise, Afrin, no success with any. I started to try neti pot, but nothing came out and my nasal passages seemed clear. I know that my right eustachian tube is blocked and my sinuses are acting up, so I was told to try Mucinex. The irony of all is I just flew into LA and upon descent everything opened up, it was like a miracle. Then we landed and all went back to stuffy.

Like others here, I’m frustrated. I’m paticularly upset with the only answer being hearing aids. For me, I’m going to wait it out a couple of months. I have noticed some improvement, so if there is some, there might be more. Don’t give up folks, but don’t sink your money into hearing aids without giving every option a chance.

avatar Tobi August 25, 2014 at 6:48 pm

For anyone who has seen success at all with the low salt diet and diuretic, how long were you on it before there was improvement?

avatar David October 1, 2014 at 9:07 pm

YES! Exactly the same symptoms.
I’ve heard 2014 was a bad allergy season, and pollen usually gives me a sinus infection. No problems with ears in past. I’m 43 and an architect. I listen to a lot of music via headphones sitting at a desk all day.

I recently moved from Georgia to Missouri. 100ft higher above ASL and of course Latitude/Longitude. This is the longest I’ve ever been out of the South. Maybe spinning around on this rock in space at a dif location whacked me out.

Ear Pressure
No fluid build up
Ear Pain/Itchiness Fullness
Sounds have a hollow metallic sound, tinny
Loudness, Sounds seem to come from everywhere and resonate in head
Vertigo, occasionally
Tinnitus, both sides around 11,000 to 13,000 hz
Ears feel like I’m on a plane that’s changing altitude and I can’t get off this ride!!!

Allergy symptoms started not long after I moved in May 2014. I was taking Zyrtec D 24 hr daily. Then one morning in July 2014 I woke up and the above list was in effect. I saw the GP and they called it Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.

Flonase and Zyrtec/Claritin 24 hr (no decongestant) It’s been 3 weeks and little improvement. I’m praying that winter knocks it out.

I’ve also tried garlic oil in my ears. This helps a lot with itchiness and fullness and actually makes sounds less metallic. I use it at night and find it muffles the harshness of sound. I’ve been cleaning my ears with the same stuff the vet uses on my dog lately…LOL I don’t know, don’t judge I’m desperate. Look for Garlic Ear Oil on Amazon. WARNING: You’re going to reek like Italian Bread Dip. #honeybadgerdontcare

The flonase works great for about 6 hours. So I’ve started splitting the dose for morning and evening. 1 spray/ each nostril 2x a day vs 2 sprays/each nostril 1x day. Why? Because I was doing 2 sprays in the morning and found I needed another in the evening, and then my INSURANCE company made me wait 4 days to refill and my symptoms got MUCH WORSE.

I’ve cut way back on diet soda too. (Diet Coke and Diet Dr Pepper) I drink a lot of unsweetened ice tea now.

avatar Molly October 6, 2014 at 12:28 am

Wonderful to find this forum. I believe I have acute conductive hearing loss. First happened in April 2014 and lasted for 3 days and then went away. I thought it was ear wax build-up and didn’t seek help from a doc. The sudden hearing loss happened again on Sept 8 as I was getting ready for a trip. Went to the ENT upon my return and got on prednisone on the 17th (10 days after it came back). Been off the prednisone for a week and all the symptoms have returned. Very discouraging. I am going to talk with ENT about a prednisone shot in the ear. I just hope it gets better as this is such a strange and uncomfortable feeling. I feel out of balance. Silence is nice. It is a comfort to find this forum. Thank you.

avatar Christopher McAlpine October 11, 2014 at 7:23 am

Hello everyone.
After reading everyone’s comments, I am surprised that nobody brought up Meniere’s disease. It is a vestibular/auditory disorder of the cochlea, in which there is too much fluid in the inner ear, and many of the issues described are symptoms of the disease. It is often not diagnosed in time and the disease caused permanent damage to the hearing nerve. Usually it is accompanied by debilitating vertigo. ENT’s can treat the vertigo, but are unable to offer anything regarding hearing, except to refer you to an audiologist.

Hearing loss is the result of a trauma to the inner ear. One loses the ability to hear certain frequencies, which makes noises sound strange. The trauma could be from exposure to a loud noise: a gunshot, turning on a stereo that had the volume all the way up, sirens blasting from ambulances or fire trucks while walking around downtown… this can cause damage which can be just a painful ache, pressure, extreme sensitivity to noise. Then these symptoms recede, and some time later, the hearing loss shows up.

I had to ‘relearn’ how to hear music the first time I experienced a sudden loss. While one side sounded normal, the other sounded off. It’s the brain attempting to translate the sounds that the damaged nerves are picking up. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better if there was just total deafness.

It can be a depressing experience, and it is easy to be in denial that it is actually happening when it starts. Listening to headphones, specifically earbuds, is very harmful for extended amounts of time…your blasting volume straight into the ear.

avatar Tobi October 12, 2014 at 3:02 am


Even tho my loss was the immediate result of an ear infection, I have been told by the doctor I may have cochlear hydrops, aka atypical menieres in my case. I had lost all tones at a moderate range, but regained the high tones to the normal range. However mid and low frequencies have stayed the same, and because of this and the distortion I am told it is clinically cochlear hydrops. Its been three months and the distortion is pretty difficult. One doctor says it will fade off and go away, another says I’ll just learn to live with it.
Of course nobody knows. It is tough, but I have coped better these last two months, and am tuning it out as best I can. I guess as far as the hearing loss goes, I am stuck with it, but I really hope the distortion does go away. If anyone has any news of such a thing, please let me know.

avatar Christopher McAlpine October 12, 2014 at 3:52 am

Hi Tobi,
I have experienced the distortion you described, and it can be maddening because it’s almost worse than tinnitus. It should recede over time, in my case it lasted over 8 months.

ENT’s and physicians have little understanding of how to treat Meniere’s, which can really make the situation feel hopeless.

The following link is the best source of information regarding this complex condition.

I really credit the regimen described as what halted the non-stop buzzsaw noise, and the fuzzy distortion of bass frequencies. It hasn’t brought the hearing back, but it made the situation somewhat better than just trying to learn to live with it.

avatar Tobi October 12, 2014 at 4:19 am

Thank you so much for your reply. I am so glad to hear your distortion receded. I think its worse than the hearing loss for me. Mine seems like echoes and whistles on top of sounds, and of course there is the tinnitus as you describe. Like static 24/7. But that bothers me less than the distortion…

I may try the john of ohio vits. I am currently on a low salt diet and diuretic as oer doctor’s instructions, but I am not sure if it is helping…the hyperacusis has faded though.

Thanks again, Tobi

avatar Molly October 14, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Thanks Christopher, for posting John’s Meniere’s Regimen.

I have not gotten much information from my doc – kind of a wait and see after 2 prednisone regimens, but I am hoping that I have Meniere’s – I have all the symptoms except vertigo; it feels like I am having audio hallucinations, lost the bass hearing, have tinnitus, all in left ear and I am somewhat dizzy. I have ordered John’s regimen components, in the hopes that this will alleviate the symptoms I do have.

I was wondering, besides John’s suggestion to refrain from gluten, if you or anyone has had good results with anti-inflammatory diet? Or if anyone has other suggestions on where to look to learn what foods to avoid. I have been on a form of the Paleo diet for 3 years and the anti-inflamm diet combined makes for VERY slim choices.

Can I assume that most people here have completely cut out alcohol? That was a tough one for me, but I think the tinnitus may be subsiding.

Thanks again, this feels like such a lonely journey and it is so wonderful to have found this forum. Thank you Stephanie.

avatar Christopher McAlpine October 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Molly I sincerely hope you do not have Meniere’s…the unpredictability of when it flares up makes it a horrible burden to worry about.

I think parts of the regimen do really help with hearing loss…like the lemon bioflavinoid, while some of the others help with tinnitus (vinpocetine).
These would be useful to anyone with such ailments, regardless of a Meniere’s diagnosis.

Inflamation is very bad. You dont have to cut everything out…just practice extreme moderation. I’ve given up sugar and moved towards stevia…now sugar makes me feel ill, so I try to limit my exposure to it. Alcohol…again, practice moderation, like 1 glass a week.

One other important point, many pharmaceuticals are actually oto-toxic…meaning toxic to the ear. Western alopathic medicine is almost completely based around treatment with a prescription. When you read about the side affects of various medications, it becomes apparent that hearing is considered an unfortunate casualty in pursuit of the drug’s healing objective. And the orthopedic specialist who prescribes that high dose of ibuprofen for that shoulder pain isn’t at all focused on the oto-toxic aspects of the medicine. Point is that you really have to be assertive and self educating regarding your healthcare…and if your doctor doesn’t support that, find another fast.

Stephanie, thank you kindly for providing this space to discuss these issues.

Good day all!

avatar Molly October 14, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Hi Christopher –

Thank you so much for your response – I read over my post and I meant to say that I am hoping that I do NOT have Meniere’s! I appreciate the advice around the stevia and Alcohol, also about the Ibprofin – I have been taking up to 4 at a time during bouts of back pain over the years. Good to know!

avatar Derrick January 20, 2015 at 8:23 pm

I went to the doctor about 3 weeks ago. I had earwax build up in my left ear. The doctor removed it by taking hydrogen peroxide in a syringe and forcefully irrigating my ear canal. I have had this procedure done a couple times before. But this time was different, during the procedure I felt tremendous pressure on my ear, then instantly became dizzier than I have ever been in my life. I was sitting and still felt like I was going to the ground. I have been back to the doctor because that ear is muffled. My balance is off, when I move my head quickly, it gets even worse. I get nauseous real easy. My ear canal is clean but I still feel like it is plugged or like I have pressure on the ear drum. The doctor thought maybe an inner ear infection so I was put on 2000 MG of ammoxicillin per day. After 10 days there has been no change.

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