This topic provides information about Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD). You can either check out the slide share below or keep reading to learn more.
What is Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD)?
Your Eustachian tube is a small, approximately 18-36 mm length tube, that runs from the air-filled middle ear cavity to the back of the nose and throat, called the nasopharynx. There are 3 muscles connected to the eustachian tube that help open and close the tube.
The Eustachian tube opens and closes to equalize pressure between the middle ear and nasopharynx, protects the middle ear from nasophayngeal secretions and loud sounds, as well as drain mucous secretions from the middle ear space.
The Eustachian tube repeatedly opens during swallowing and yawning to allow ventilation of the middle ear.
At rest, the Eustachian tube is closed so that loud noises are dampened before reaching the middle ear.
This repeated opening and closing of the Eustachian tube allows for draining of the normal secretions of the middle ear.
If the Eustachian tube is not functioning properly, pressure builds up in the middle ear space and the mucous secretions are unable to drain from the middle ear. Prolonged Eustachian tube dysfunction will likely lead to a middle ear infection, or otitis media.
What causes Eustachian tube dysfunction?
Eustachian tube dysfunction has 2 common causes:
- The most common cause of Eustachian tube dysfunction is an upper respiratory infection.
- Allergies and/or a sinus infection can cause swelling of the tissue lining the Eustachian tube and cause dysfunction.
You have a greater chance of getting Eustachian tube dysfunction if you are an infant or child with frequent upper respiratory infections.
The tube in infants and children is much smaller and lies more horizontal, which can lead to a greater likelihood of Eustachian tube dysfunction than with adults.
With altitude changes, such as when on an airplane or scuba diving, the pressure change pushes on the eardrum. For a person with Eustachian tube dysfunction, the pressure on the eardrum can not be regulated.
In rare cases, a mass or tumor in the nasopharynx space can cause Eustachian tube dysfunction.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of Eustachian tube dysfunction can include:
- Pressure or fullness of the ear
- “clicking” or “popping” noise in the ear
- Temporary hearing loss
- Pain in the ear (otalagia)
How is Eustachian tube dysfunction diagnosed?
Function of the Eustachian tube can be assessed using three common tests:
A “puff” of air is delivered into the ear. If movement of the eardrum can be visualized then the Eustachian tube function is likely normal.
Measures middle ear pressure with a pressure change delivered to the ear canal.
A mirrored scope is inserted down the nose to rule out a mass in the nasopharyngeal space.
Other tests for Eustachian tube dysfunction may include: imaging, Eustachian tube catheterization, Valsalva and Toynbee tests.
How is it treated?
The Valsalva manuever can be used to try to resolve a blocked Eustachian tube. This is done by pinching the nose, closing the mouth and blowing. If dizziness occurs during or immediately after performing the Valsalva manuever, see a physician.
If you have an upper repiratory infection, sinus infection, or allergies, treating these ailments will likely resolve Eustachian tube dysfunction. This is usually done with the use of antihistamines, decongestants, or prescription nasal sprays.
In cases where Eustachian tube dysfunction is chronis, a pressure equalization tube (PE Tube) can be surgically inserted into the eardrum to equalize middle ear pressure.
Does Eustachian tube dysfunction cause lasting problems?
Unresolved Eustachian tube dysfunction can lead to chronic otitis media.