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?
Causes 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. Temporary use of nasal decongestants, such as Afrin, may also be used to alleviate ETD (these sprays should never be used for longer than 3 days).
If your symptoms last more than two weeks, see a doctor. Your physician may prescribe an antibiotic in the form of ear drops or oral tablets. In severe cases, a doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids or pressure equalization tubes.
Call ENT Specialists Of Northern Virginia at (703) 644-7800 for more information or to schedule an appointment.