Unfortunately I received some bad news today. On Thursday’s dive I noticed that I was having trouble equalizing my left ear and I had to force it a little bit. Apparently I forced it a bit too much, at the time I heard a popping sound but did not think too much about it because my hearing did not change and there was no immediate pain in it. That all changed on Friday though.
When I woke up on Friday I noticed pain in my left ear and my ear was plugged up so that I could hear my heartbeat. Actually hearing my heartbeat is a good thing, that is a good sign that the membrane, or ear drum, was still intact. I stayed home on Friday with a low-grade fever and took ibuprofen for the pain, hoping it would go away.
Today I woke up with the pain even worse, so I went to the hospital to have my ear checked. Even though I know what to look for and have an otoscope here in my emergency kit to see into the ear canal, I can not see into my own ears, so I was forced to rely on someone else’s opinion.
The Emergency Room physician referred me to a specialist because he thought he saw a small hole in the membrane, but he was not sure. The membrane was severely infected along with the ear canal, but he was not sure if the membrane was intact or not. So, for the next few hours I waited to get squeezed into see the specialist, worrying that I may have done permanent damage to the membrane, which could prevent me from diving in the future.
Once I was finally able to be seen by the specialist she examined my ears, noting the infections to both the canal and the membrane. She noticed what the E.R. physician had seen on the membrane but stated that she did not believe it had ruptured. It was basically like a stretch mark which was a sign of over stretching of the membrane when I forced my ears to equalize on Thursday.
Because the infection was both on the inside and on the outside, affecting both the ear canal and membrane, and middle ear she prescribed antibiotics and antibiotic ear drops for the next 15 days and benched me from diving for at least a week. If the infection has completely cleared I can resume diving after June 3rd, but if it has not completely cleared I have to wait another full week before I am cleared to dive again.
I was supposed to be assisting Michelle with another Open Water Diver class today and tomorrow for their open water dives up at Sharks Cove on the North Shore. I had to sit today out dealing with the hospital and doctors, but I will assist her tomorrow morning. I wont be able to dive tomorrow, but at least I can help out with ground support.
This not being able to get in the water for at least a week is really going to get to me. This is going to be a very long week for me. The moral of this story, if you ever have trouble equalizing your ears, DO NOT force it, not even a little bit. You may not be as lucky as I was by only having to stay out of the water for a week.