Eustachian Tube: What Is It?
The Eustachian tube is a small passageway that connects the back of the nose to the middle ear. It keeps air pressure and fluid from building up inside of the ear. Another very important function of the Eustachian tube is to drain mucus from the middle ear, helping prevent middle ear infections.
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction Symptoms
If the Eustachian tube is impaired or abnormal, it is referred to as Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. Symptoms of this disorder include the feeling that your ears are plugged or full. Sounds might seem muffled or quieter and you may feel a popping or clicking sensation in your ear. When children are experiencing problems with their Eustachian tube, they will often develop fluid trapped behind the eardrum which can result in temporary hearing loss or even an infection of the middle ear. Adults are less likely to have an ear infection; however, they commonly experience symptoms when the Eustachian tube is stressed such as when descending in an airplane, diving or even when driving up or down a large hill or mountain.
What Causes Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
The Eustachian tube opens at the back of the nose and so it can easily become inflamed when the internal lining of the nose is swollen. Suffering from a cold, the flu, allergies, or a sinus infection can all be culprits. In children, the Eustachian tubes are shorter and less angled than in adults so it’s easier for bacteria to reach the middle ear and become trapped there. Smokers are at an increased risk as well because toxins decrease our cells’ natural ability to clear mucus.
How It’s Diagnosed
The best option is to see a specialist like Dr. Davis to get an accurate diagnosis of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. He will fully examine your ear canals and eardrums, along with your nasal passages and the back of your nose and throat. A simple test called a tympanogram may be performed as well. After that, he can determine what the best course of action will be.
Eustachian Tube Dilation
One of the treatment options that gets to the root of Eustachian tube problems is called Eustachian tube balloon dilation. The ultimate goal of this procedure is to relieve or decrease the feeling of fullness, pressure, and clogging that is synonymous with Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.
Balloon Dilation can be performed in our office. Dr. Davis uses a small endoscope to help guide the balloon through the nose to the back of the nasal cavity and then into the eustachian tube. Once it’s in the right place he will gently inflate the balloon which will dilate the eustachian tube. After that, he will deflate and remove the balloon. Both ears can be treated during the same visit. While this is typically an office-based treatment, if the nasal passages are narrow then dilation might need to be done under sedation in a nearby operating room. Eustachian tube balloon dilation can provide relief to symptoms quickly, and there is no downtime after the procedure. We are happy to answer any other questions you might have over the phone or in person.