A while back I wrote about how hard it was to get in to see an ENT here in Phoenix. I finally got my ear infection diagnosed by one of those local walk-in emergency clinics that are popping up in malls. They prescribed antibiotic pills and drops, which I took diligently for 10 days.
My ear stopped hurting, but the hearing did not clear up. Eventually, it started hurting again and my hearing was really blocked. Fortunately I had held onto my appointment I made weeks ago with an ENT, and went in yesterday. Apparently, I had an enormous fungal infestation. The bacteria competes with the fungus normally and keeps it in check. Once the bacteria were temporarily wiped out, the ecosystem in my ear canal was out of whack and the fungus went crazy.
The doctor vacuumed out an absolutely disgustingly large chunk of, uh, gross stuff from my ear and it was immediately better. He put some topical cream on it, and it feels great this morning and my hearing is back.
Update: I am not trying to make any point about the health care system. I got perfectly good service from both doctors, though I was frustrated it took so long to see an ENT. I find the whole microscopic ecosystem on and in our bodies fascinating, so I overshared on this experience. I saw something the other day about twins, one of whom was fatter and one of whom was thinner, with the differences attributed to differences in the bacteria in their gut.