Ear fullness is one of the first symptoms that most Meniere’s sufferers notice. It was the symptom that drove me to provoke my first vertigo spell back in 1984. I have a specific treatment regimen for ear fullness because I was certain that my symptoms were caused by allergies when this all started. I tried and then discarded every single allergy treatment commonly on the market between the years of 1984 and 2003, and the only real symptom that I had to judge effectiveness against in those years was ear fullness and sinus pressure. At some point after we moved to Austin the Wife and I settled on the medication that we decided worked best, and that was Sudafed Non-drying Sinus.
They were magical green gel caps to me. I would take those things every day, several times a day, for months at a time. If I had them I could operate reasonably smoothly on a day-to-day basis during the bad months, before the weekly vertigo started to knock me on my ass. The gel caps were made up of the two drugs, guaifenesin and pseudoephedrine and I could buy them over the counter anywhere in the United States. They were my lifeline, they allowed me to pretend that I could live a normal life for about half of the year, every year after my first vertigo spell back in 1984ish.
Then the US decided to declare war on pseudoephedrine. It was a bad drug. You used it to make street meth and red-blooded Americans had to stomp out meth availability across the United States. This was par for the course for United States drug policy.
The government finds a thing that it decides it needs to stamp out so that the citizenry will be safe from the indulgences that average people just seem to be drawn to, and it declares war on that thing and drives it underground. First it was opium, then there was marijuana, cocaine, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum. The government never asked why its citizens needed to escape the confines of their own intolerable lives, they just kept screwing down the lid on the insane war on drugs, tighter and tighter.
Then the government came for my essential medicines, demonizing them as drugs in the process. All medicines are drugs, just as all drugs are medicines. It is a distinction without a difference. I wrote about the subject on the blog at the time, but there was no stopping the juggernaut once it was in motion. The medicine that I relied on simply disappeared in the drive to end the meth epidemic, the exact same tactic the government has utilized previously and has never been successful before. If you want illegal drugs you can get them, you just have to pay more for them and risk going to jail for having them. The drugs are still out there and they are more attractive to the adults and children who have figured out that all the fun stuff is stuff that they are told that they can’t do.
As I have said many times over the years, we have to stop demonizing mind-altering drugs and recognize why and how mind-altering is the right thing to pursue. Regulate those industries set up to facilitate the exploration that fully half of the population will feel they need to do. Until we do this we will never even understand what it is we think we are fighting in the first place. But that is beside the point of this article.
After the decision to demonize my allergy medication, there was a shakeup of the industry in general. Guaifenesin stopped being cheap and readily available, much like pseudoephedrine. Mucinex still acts like it is all things guaifenesin. I won’t touch the stuff and only buy generic guaifenesin. Sudafed started peddling a different medicine than their trademark suggested and to this day hawks their wares in methods that border on fraudulent. As with most things that you want to purchase for the most reasonable cost, know what the generic name of the thing is and look for that thing.
So I started buying the tablets separately, generic pseudoephedrine and generic guaifenesin in as great a quantity as I was allowed to purchase at one time. As the years went by and other health concerns emerged, I started to have doubts about continuing the use of my beloved Sudafed ne pseudoephedrine. Then life happened and my treatment regimen changed again. I was diagnosed with Meniere’s and I began to experiment with a lot of different, more potent treatments, just to see if I could live some kind of a normal life.
I do know that guaifenesin does something for ear pressure, and I established this through direct experimentation. When I became bilateral (Meniere’s in both ears) after the death of my mother and agreed to undergo intratympanic steroid injections to stave off hearing loss in the newly affected ear, the treatment also relieved the ear pressure for several months running. I was so relieved by the lack of pressure on the right side of my head that I asked to have the injections in the left ear as well. The treatment worked and I was pain free for the first time in years.
I didn’t see the point of continuing to self-medicate with pseudoephedrine & guaifenesin if the ear pressure was no longer a problem and I stopped taking them because of this. Six months passed. I woke up one day with returned ear pressure. I tolerated it for quite awhile thinking it would ease off eventually, but I started to notice that the left ear was sensitive in some very new and odd ways.
If I plugged the ear with a fingertip and wiggled it around my body felt like it changed shape. It felt like my right shoulder was getting longer and my right leg/hip was moving. It was the weirdest damned thing I’d ever felt and I’d only started noticing it since altering my allergy regimen.
So I went back to get another steroid injection, and I screwed that one up by swallowing the wrong way. After nearly a week bedridden with vertigo from that experience, I decided that self-medicating with guaifenesin was preferable if it worked to stop the pressure and other vestibular oddities. After just a few doses of guaifenesin, the ear pressure was off and the world didn’t turn inside out when I put pressure on the eardrum. I haven’t noticed that symptom since that last injection and the subsequent return to a dose guaifenesin when I notice the ear pressure.
With a nod to the concerns of my cardiologist I have forgone continuing the use of pseudoephedrine unless I simply can’t breath through my sinuses at night. Guaifenesin will remain in my treatment regimen, though. I can’t take the weirdness of my body changing shape when I rub my ears. I’m sure most sufferers would agree with that.