The Eustachian tube joins the middle ear to the rear part of the throat. The tube is responsible for helping the ears drain fluid as well as keeping the air pressure in the ears at a normal level.
When yawning or even swallowing, the tubes open briefly to allow air in to make the pressure in the middle ear identical to the pressure outside the ears. Oftentimes, fluid or negative pressure is stuck in the middle ear while the pressure outside is too high. This triggers ear pain and even difficulty hearing.
What are the causes?
- Common cold
- Sinus infection
These conditions prevent the Eustachian tube from opening which results to pressure changes. Fluid might also buildup in the middle ear and both this fluid and pressure triggers pain.
Ear pain is also present from changes in the pressure while flying in an airplane, driving up mountains or scuba diving. The fluid in the ear can result to an infection. It is important to note that young children face a higher risk for ear infections since their Eustachian tubes are shorter and readily blocked than the tubes in adults and older children.
What are the indications of a blocked Eustachian tube?
- Ear pain and full sensation
- Hearing issues
- Ringing or popping in the affected ear
A blocked Eustachian tube often settles on its own. You might be able to open a blocked Eustachian tube with a simple exercise – close the mouth, hold the nose and blow gently as if blowing the nose. Chewing gum and yawning can also help. One can hear or sense popping when the tubes open up to equalize the pressure between the interior and outside the ears.
If the tubes could not be opened, the doctor might recommend an over-the-counter pain medication. Among those who have allergies, a steroid medication might be given by the doctor that is sprayed into the nose. Decongestants taken orally or sprayed into the nose can be beneficial as well. Antibiotics are also required if an ear infection is present.