Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

(ETD; Barotitis Media; Barotrauma; Ear Popping; Pressure-related Ear Pain)

Definition

The eustachian tube is a small canal that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and upper throat. Its purpose is to equalize the air pressure in the middle ear with the pressure outside it.Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD) occurs when the tube fails to open during swallowing or yawning. This results in a difference between the air pressure inside and outside the middle ear.
Eustachian Tube
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Causes

ETD is caused by poor function or blockage of the eustachian tube, including:
  • Inability of the tiny hairs inside the ear to remove fluid and infection
  • Poor squeezing function within the eustachian tube
  • Narrow eustachian tube—in infants
  • Adenoid tissue blocking eustachian tube—in children
  • Swollen nasal secretions that cause a blockage
  • Tumors—in adults

Risk Factors

This condition is more common in children. Factors that may increase your chance of getting ETD include:
  • Nasal congestion from an allergy
  • Cold or other upper respiratory infection
  • Ear or sinus infections
  • Environmental allergies
  • Children with large adenoids
  • Activities with large, rapid altitude changes, such as flying in an airplane or scuba diving
  • Presence of obstructing tumors in the nasopharynx

Symptoms

Symptoms can include:
  • Feeling of fullness or clogging in the ear
  • Discomfort or pain in the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ear
  • A sensation of spinning known as vertigo
  • Symptoms that cannot be relieved by swallowing, yawning, or chewing
  • Pain if the blockage results in an infection

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