When your ear gets plugged with fluid, the sounds you hear may be muffled and your ear may feel full or painful – most of the time. This discomfort in ear occurs due to some dysfunction in the Eustachian tube - a narrow tube or passageway that connects the back of our nose and throat to the middle of our ear. 

Let us read the blog in detail to know all about the Eustachian Tube – that might play the culprit to cause difficulty in hearing.

What is Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

Eustachian tube helps the person to hear, balances the air pressure in the eardrum, and also aids in draining excess secretions from the middle ear. It usually remains closed until you swallow something, yawn, or sneeze. Sometimes, due to some allergic infection or cold, our Eustachian tube may get clogged or plugged. When a prolonged blockage of the eustachian tube occurs, it is called eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD). 

Know the Types of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

There are three different types of eustachian tube dysfunction, including: 

1. Patulous ETD: In this type to ETD, our eustachian tubes stay open all of the time. As a result it causes the outer sound to travel from your nasal cavity to your ears and distorts the sound of your voice.

2. Obstructive ETD: In certain cases the eustachian tubes don’t open as they should, and as a result, fluid accumulates in the eardrum. This causes obstructive ETD which might lead to ear pain or internal ear pressure.

3. Baro-challenge-induced ETD: Like obstructive ETD, baro-challenge-induced ETD occurs when your eustachian tubes don’t open properly. The difference is that symptoms of baro-challenge-induced ETD only occur when you experience altitude changes.

What Causes Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?  

The most common cause of eustachian tube dysfunction is when the tube becomes inflamed and fluid gets build-up due to:

  • Allergic rhinitis (nasal allergy)
  • Influenza or common cold
  • Sinus infections
  • Pollution or cigarette smoke
  • Obesity that might lead to the accumulation of fatty deposits around the eustachian tubes

Symptoms of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction  

A clogged eustachian tube has the following symptoms:

  • Blocked ears with a feeling of fullness
  • Muffled hearing
  • Discomfort or pain in the ears
  • Clicking or popping noise inside ears
  • Ticklish feeling in the ears
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Balance problems or dizziness

Management and Treatment of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction 

The treatment of eustachian tube dysfunction is based on the underlying cause and the severity of your condition. In most cases, treatment is not required since the condition gets better on its own. However, if your symptoms last longer than two weeks, you may require treatment that includes:

1. Home remedies: 

  • Chewing Gum
  • Yawning
  • Swallow
  • Saline spray to clear the nasal passage
  • Do the Valsalva maneuver following these steps. Take a breath and close your mouth. Plug your nose and try blowing out air with closed mouth and nose. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Then, open your nose or mouth and breathe out.

In babies, the suckling motion may clear the blockage. So prefer giving them a bottle or a pacifier. 

2. Medications: Use over-the-counter medications for allergies like antihistamines and decongestants. For pain use pain relievers. When the cause is infection, your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics or corticosteroids for inflammation.

3. Implants: Severe cases are treated with implants that involve pressure equalization tubes in the ears. 

4. Draining: Small incisions are made in the eardrum to drain the fluid from your middle ear.

How Can I Prevent Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

While ETD cannot be prevented altogether but there are a few things that one can do to reduce the risk, like:

  • Wear a specialized ear plugs before your flight takes off or comes down to reduce your risk of airplane ETD.
  • Avoid hiking extreme temperatures, if you are prone to higher altitudes ETD. 
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your mucus thin to avoid cold induced ETD.

When Should I See a Healthcare Provider?

Make sure to consult a doctor if your symptoms:

  • Get severe with excess pain, dizziness, or hearing loss
  • Persist for more than two weeks
  • Interfere with your everyday activity

Most of the times Eustachian tube dysfunction usually resolves on its own. However, in some cases, it can cause ear discomfort, pressure, and hearing issues due to a prolonged blockage or infection. If left unattended, it can lead to more chronic problems. Therefore, make sure to consult an experienced ENT specialist who can diagnose and treat ETD appropriately to avoid potential complications.

In case you have any questions regarding Eustachian tube dysfunction or hearing problems, Talk to our ENT Specialist to get personalized advice, just in minutes. A team of certified doctors are always available to help you at Ask a doctor 24x7. Choose a specialist per your requirement and Book an appointment. 

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Disclaimer: Information provided on this page is not intended to substitute for proper medical advice provided by your healthcare professional. This is only for informational purposes. 

About the Author

Priya Singh

Priya Singh is a professional writer and editor with 13 years of experience in writing/editing health and lifestyle content for diverse verticals such as magazine, newspaper, and digital media.

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