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.
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ETD is caused by poor function or blockage of the eustachian tube, including:
This condition is more common in children.
Other factors that may increase your chances of ETD:
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:
The following measures may improve clogging, discomfort, or pain:
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:
American Hearing Research Foundation
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Hearing Society
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
Barotrauma. American Hearing Research Foundation website. Available at: http://american-hearing.org/disorders/barotrauma. Updated October 2012. Accessed September 27, 2017.
Eustachian tube dysfunction. Patient website. Available at: https://patient.info/health/eustachian-tube-dysfunction. Updated February 24, 2015. Accessed September 27, 2017.
General information about nasopharyngeal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/patient/nasopharyngeal-treatment-pdq. Updated August 19, 2016. Accessed September 27, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD Last Updated: 9/17/2015