The Eustachian tube is a muscular, funnel-shaped tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose. Eustachian tube dysfunction refers to any problem that alters how this tube opens and closes, which in turn affects pressure and fluid balance for the ear. The Eustachian tube changes in shape and position as we age, and problems can be different in adults and children. Common causes of ETD include allergy, rapid weight loss, infection, enlarged adenoids and sinus disease.
What Are the Symptoms of ETD?
Symptoms of ETD may be temporary or long lasting, and typically include:
- Fullness in the ear
- Changes to your hearing
- Ears feeling plugged
- Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear
- Itchiness or a ticklish feeling in the ear
- Ear pain
What Causes ETD?
Eustachian tube dysfunction may be environmental and caused by changes in altitude, such as when hiking, driving through mountains or flying on an airplane. Allergies and colds are the most common causes of ETD, as they can cause your Eustachian tubes to become inflamed or plugged with mucus.
How Is ETD Treated?
While ETD typically resolves itself without treatment, there are solutions to help ease your discomfort. Treatment depends on the severity and underlying cause.
Home remedies can be used for minor ETD symptoms, and include:
- Chewing gum
- Swallowing repeatedly
- Exhaling while plugging the nose and mouth
- Using a saline nasal spray
- For babies, giving them a pacifier to suck on
Over-the-counter options are also available. If ETD is caused by allergies, antihistamines such as Benadryl and Zyrtec may help you find relief. OTC pain relievers like Tylenol and Advil may also help relieve mild pain caused by ETD.
Eustachian Tube Dilation
If you have chronic fluid or pressure in your ear and your symptoms last a few months, see a doctor. Your doctor may recommend Eustachian tube dilation.
Dr. Pablo Stolovitzky was part of the research team1 working on obtaining FDA approval in the United States. He uses a catheter to insert a small balloon through the patient’s nose and into the Eustachian tube. Once inflated, the balloon opens up a pathway for mucus and air to flow through the Eustachian tube; this may help restore proper function. After the Eustachian tube is dilated the balloon is removed.
Call Dr. Stolovitzky at (404) 921-5474 for more information or to schedule an appointment.
1 Balloon Dilation of the Eustachian Tube: 12-Month Follow-up of the Randomized Controlled Trial Treatment Group. Anand V, Poe D, Dean M, Roberts W, Stolovitzky P, et.al. J. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019 Apr;160(4):687-694