Ear Infection

What you need to know about ear barotrauma?

Fact Checked

Ear barotrauma causes discomfort in the ear due to the changes in the pressure. In every ear, the Eustachian tube links the middle part of the ear to the throat and the nose which also regulates the pressure in the ear. Once this tube is obstructed, one will experience ear barotrauma.

Remember that occasional ear barotrauma is common, particularly in environments where there are changes in the altitude. Even though the condition is not detrimental in some individuals, recurrent cases can lead to further complications.

What are the signs and symptoms?

If an individual has ear barotrauma, there is an uncomfortable pressure within the ear. The usual symptoms that might occur earlier or in mild to moderate cases might include the following:

  • Generalized ear discomfort
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling of stuffiness or fullness in the ear
  • Minimal hearing loss or difficulty hearing
    Ear barotrauma
    Remember that occasional ear barotrauma is common, particularly in environments where there are changes in the altitude.

Once it progresses long enough without treatment or in severe cases, the symptoms can worsen. Other symptoms that might occur in such cases include the following:

  • Ear pain
  • Nosebleed
  • Pressure in the ears similar to being underwater
  • Injury to the eardrum
  • Moderate to severe hearing loss or difficulty

If treated, almost all the symptoms improve. The hearing loss from ear barotrauma is usually momentary and can be reversed.

What are the causes?

Blockage of the Eustachian tube is one of the cause of ear barotrauma. This tube is responsible for restoring the equilibrium during pressure changes. If the tube is clogged, the symptoms develop since the pressure in the ear is different than the pressure outside the eardrum.

Changes in the altitude are the usual cause of the condition. Ear barotrauma typically occurs during an ascent or descent of an airplane. Other scenarios that can cause the condition include hiking, scuba diving or driving through places with high altitudes.


In most cases of ear barotrauma, they typically heal without medical intervention. There are several self-care measures that can done for immediate relief such as the following:

  • Chewing gum
  • Yawning
  • Antihistamines or decongestants
  • Breathing exercises

In severe cases, the doctor might prescribe an antibiotic or a steroid to help out in cases of infection or inflammation. In some cases, ear barotrauma can result to eardrum rupture. A ruptured eardrum usually takes up to 2 months to heal. Remember that the symptoms that do not respond to self-care measures might necessitate surgery to prevent lasting damage to the eardrum.

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