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Blocked Eustachian tube

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Eustachian tube is a vital structure in the ear that connects the middle to the back of the nose to upper portion of the throat. It has several important functions which are – maintain appropriate pressure in eardrum and helping the eardrum to vibrate properly so that we can hear. The Eustachian tube opens when we chew, yawn or swallow, this allows proper ventilation in the middle ear space. If the Eustachian tube gets blocked then you will experience several discomforts in your ears.

Symptoms of blocked Eustachian tube

  • Sensing clogging and fullness in ears
  • Ears do not open despite swallowing or yawning
  • Reduced hearing
  • Ringing or fluttering sensation in ears
  • Pain in ears
  • Feeling dizzy or vertigo

What causes blocked Eustachian tube? 

There are several reasons why your Eustachian tube might get blocked. They are:

  • Common cold, infection in respiratory tract, sinus infections- they lead to swelling of the Eustachian tube lining
  • Improper drainage of the ear fluid – it can also lead to infection in ears (otitis media)
  • Flying or travelling to high altitude or underwater diving
  • Tumours in skull base and nasopharnyx
  • Children with large adenoids are at risk

When to see a doctor?

Usually the blockage goes away on its own. Try swallowing, chewing or yawning to open the blockage. If you have ear pain then you can use take compress with a warm washcloth. These home remedies usually clear up the blockage. 

However, if you still experience unusual discomfort in your ear, especially reduced hearing, pain and sounds, then you must check with an ENT specialist.

Diagnosis of blocked Eustachian tube

Your doctor will first take the medical history of the blockage and its symptoms. He/she will physically examine the ear to see signs of fluid accumulation and infection. The device generally used to rule out problems in ear, including the Eustachian tube is a pneumatic otoscope.

Depending on this initial evaluation further tests, like Tympanogram and Audiogram  might be recommended to check for hearing loss, tumours, and other possibilities of blockage.

Treatment of blocked Eustachian tube

Valsalva maneuver- Your doctor will show you how to perform it correctly. The technique involves application of moderate force to exhale while keeping all airways closed. You have to close your mouth, pinch your nose shut and then press out or exhale just like the way you blow a balloon. Immediately you will hear a “pop” sound which indicates that your Eustachian tube has opened.

Flushing ears- Your ENT specialist will flush the ears with a syringe to clear up your ears

Additional medicines like pain killers and antihistamines will be given to alleviate pain and infection, respectively. Nasal or oral decongestants and nasal steroids might also be prescribed to reduce congestion from nose. This helps to open the Eustachian tube as well.

In a severe cases or if you have this problem very often then your doctor might perform a surgery in the eardrum. This technique is known as a myringotomy wherein a small incision is made on the eardrum to drain the fluid and equalize the pressure on both sides.

Written by: healthlus24.com team

Date last updated: December 29, 2014