Obstructive Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
This is the most common type of Eustachian tube dysfunction. Obstructive Eustachian tube dysfunction occurs when the valve of the Eustachian tube does not open properly. This prevents pressure from balancing and keeps fluids from draining out of the ear.
Symptoms and Causes of Obstructive Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
- Pressure and/or pain in the ears
- A sense of fullness in the ears
- Popping/crackling sounds in the ear
- Muffled hearing
- Environmental allergies
- Acid reflux
- Neoplasms (abnormal growth of tissue)
- Impaired muscle coordination or muscular deficiency, for example, in patients with a cleft palate
Diagnosing Obstructive Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
Over time, negative pressure can build up in the ear, causing pain, ear fullness and muffled hearing. When this occurs, sometimes your doctor can see the ear drum (tympanic membrane) change shape due to this pressure and become concave. An audiogram (hearing test) allows for the measurement of middle ear pressure, providing an objective means of detecting negative pressure or fluid behind the ear drum. Additionally, the structure and function of the eustachian tube may be directly visualized using a small, flexible camera.
Obstructive eustachian tube dysfunction can be chronic, intermittent, or short term. This is commonly felt during flights, when you have a cold or when SCUBA diving.
Following evaluation and diagnosis, your doctor will determine the best course of treatment. This may include medication or surgery, and a doctor may recommend avoiding triggers.
Medical treatments include:
- Nasal sprays and nasal saline irrigations
- Oral antihistamines (e.g., Claritin)
- Autoinsufflation (“popping” your ears)
Devices are available to facilitate autoinsufflation
- Immunotherapy (allergy shots)
Surgical treatments include:
- Tympanostomy tubes (ear tubes)
- Balloon dilation of the eustachian tube
- Adenoidectomy (removal of adenoids in the back of the nose)
The physicians at Shohet Ear Associates have completed specialized training in the application and performance of balloon dilation of the Eustachian tube. This safe and effective procedure may be performed in the office and has been demonstrated to improve symptoms in the majority of patients.