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.
ETD is caused by poor function or blockage of the eustachian tube, including:
This condition is more common in children.
Factors that may increase your chance of getting ETD include:
Symptoms can include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your ears will be examined. If your case is severe, you may need to see an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in ear disorders.
You may have tests done on your ears. This may include:
To deal with ear clogging, discomfort, or pain, you can try:
If the symptoms do not go away within a few hours or are severe, your doctor may advise the following medications:
In rare cases, a myringotomy may be necessary. An incision will be made in the eardrum to allow the pressure to equalize and the fluid to drain.
To help reduce your chances of getting ETD, take the following steps:
American Hearing Research Foundation
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Academy of Audiology
The Canadian Hearing Society
Barotrauma. American Hearing Research Foundation website. Available at: http://american-hearing.org/disorders/barotrauma. Updated October 2012. Accessed September 24, 2014.
Eustachian tube dysfunction. McKinley Health Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign website. Available at: http://www.mckinley.uiuc.edu/handouts/eustachian%5Ftube%5Fdysfunction/eustachian%5Ftube%5Fdysfunction.html. Updated March 24, 2007. Accessed September 24, 2014.
Eustachian tube dysfunction. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Eustachian-Tube-Dysfunction.htm. Updated March 15, 2012. Accessed September 24, 2014.
General information about nasopharyngeal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/nasopharyngeal/Patient. Updated December 20, 2013. Accessed September 24, 2014.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.