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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:

Risk Factors

This condition is more common in children.
Factors that may increase your chance of getting ETD include:

Symptoms

Symptoms can include:

Diagnosis

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:

Treatment

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.

Prevention

To help reduce your chances of getting ETD, take the following steps:

RESOURCES

American Hearing Research Foundation http://www.american-hearing.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Academy of Audiology http://www.canadianaudiology.ca

The Canadian Hearing Society http://www.chs.ca

References

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.

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