Eustachian tube dysfunction is an ailment affecting the middle ear and the sense of balance, invariably resulting in prominent earaches such as in cholesteatoma, disturbing ringing in ears or tinnitus and a slight decline in hearing. Also Read: Cholesteatoma: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
The eustachian tube is a cylindrical, pipe-like structure composed of a cartilaginous tissue portion and a bony tissue segment. Present on both sides of the face, they extend from the rear portion of the nose and throat, all the way up to the middle ear. While staying sealed in the majority of situations, the eustachian tube passages do open up, when yawning, as well as chewing and swallowing food.
Eustachian tube dysfunction often prompts prominent ear pain, as well as a heavy, stuffy sensation in the ears like in otomycosis, besides challenges in hearing clearly. Also abbreviated as ETD, it occurs extensively in people of all ages, affecting both men and women equally. Also Read: Otomycosis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
However, in minor instances, it only lasts a day or two and resolves on its own. Yet, if the signs pf ETD repeatedly happen or are very serious in an individual, then it is advised to seek professional medical care, to rectify the defects in the middle ear and restore optimal hearing.
Causes Of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
The most common reasons for eustachian tube dysfunction are sinus infections, seasonal allergies and the common cold, that trigger inflammation and accumulation of mucus in the vicinity of the ear, throat and nasal pathways.
At times, grave disorders like critical inner ear infections associated with hearing development in children can also lead to eustachian tube dysfunction, which requires immediate medical treatment
Other situations comprise moving higher in altitude, like taking a plane ride and enduring cabin pressure, climbing a mountain, hiking, trekking and riding in an elevator to the top floor of a high rise building. Due to a drop in oxygen levels and cold temperatures, many individuals present with eustachian tube dysfunction in these circumstances.
The distinguishing symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunctions consist of:
- Constantly experiencing heaviness and blockage in the ears
- A minor diminishing of clear hearing potential
- Repeated buzzing sounds in the middle and inner ear segments
- Discomfort, intense pain and tenderness in the ears
- Undergoing a tickling feeling inside the ears
- Stifled hearing abilities with sudden pop sounds
- Difficulty with establishing balance in the body
Usually the typical indications of ETD last only for a few hours or days when triggered by a change in altitude. However, if an inflammatory response to infection is the cause of ETD, then the signs and ear pain episodes last for a longer period of time.
The doctor initially reviews the symptoms of the patient over the past few days, probing them to gauge the level of discomfort in the ears and extent of hearing loss they have encountered.
Then the healthcare provider scans the ear of the patient using an otoscope, also called an auriscope, which is an instrument that provides a visual representation of the ear canal, eardrum and other middle ear and inner ear structures.
This helps detect if any infection or bodily fluids are clogging the interior ear segments. The physician also checks for other symptoms of cold or respiratory illness, to identify the underlying cause of eustachian tube dysfunction as well.
Once the instance of ETD has been confirmed in the patient and the exact cause has been verified, the doctor initiates the appropriate course of treatment.
In very basic situations of eustachian tube dysfunction, the blockage in the ears will generally heal by itself in a few hours or days. People also chew gum or try to yawn, in an attempt to clear up the middle ear. In case ETD happens in children, they can be given some crunchy snacks, so as to influence grinding motions in the mouth, jaws and make them swallow food.
Some other OTC treatments include nasal irrigation systems or saline sprays, to release and discharge secretions from the tubular passages in the ear, nose and throat.
Nevertheless, if an allergy or microbial infection is triggering ETD in the patient, the medical expert prescribes oral antihistamines or antibiotics, to cure the condition and effectively return optimum hearing and sense of bodily balance.