The Eustachian tube is a long, narrow channel that connects the middle ear to the upper throat region, above the palate. Each ear has one Eustachian tube, and this structure is responsible for maintaining the air pressure inside the middle ear. Apart from that, it helps the ear in draining fluid. This tube is around one and a half inches in length.
In normal cases, the Eustachian tube is closed, but opens periodically to allow the entry of air into the middle ear; and at the same time, the mucus from the middle ear drains out. This maintains the air pressure and prevents mucus accumulation in the middle ear. However, any blockage in the Eustachian tube interferes with its functions, causing various symptoms.
Causes and Symptoms
A blockage in the Eustachian tube can be caused by various reasons. Such blockages result in air pressure changes and fluid accumulation in the middle ear. The most common causes for this condition are common cold, allergies, and infection of the sinuses and throat. In case of an infection, the lining of the tube gets swollen, thus causing a blockage. Mucus accumulation due to common cold is another reason for this condition. Such blockage can also be caused by a condition called glue ear, wherein the middle ear gets filled with a glue-like fluid.
The Eustachian tube may get blocked during activities, like scuba diving, swimming, flying, and trekking. In most cases, this condition is often accompanied with ear pain, swelling, poor hearing, and congestion in the ears. Fever (usually in case of infections), dizziness, popping noises in the ear, and tinnitus, can occur as a result of a blocked Eustachian tube. This condition is mostly found in young children, as they have shorter Eustachian tubes, which are prone to blockage.
In mild cases, no treatment is required; as the symptoms subside on their own, within a few days. However, severe cases require medical attention, to avoid complications. The treatment for this condition is decided as per the severity. Usually, decongestant nasal drops/sprays, antihistamine tablets, and steroid nasal sprays are prescribed. Antibiotics are administered in case of infections. Decongestant sprays or drops are given for those with nasal congestion due to common cold and other such conditions. Such medicines should not be used for more than a week. Antihistamines and steroid sprays are usually given for patients with allergies and inflammation. In some cases, surgery is also recommended.
If the condition is mild, simple exercises can cure the condition. They include opening and closing the mouth repeatedly, blowing the nose gently, chewing gum, and yawning. You may also use heating pads to soothe the pain. Some people use warm oil, (heated with garlic) as ear drops to reduce ear pain associated with blockage of the Eustachian tube. Garlic is very popular for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and analgesic properties. However, it is better to avoid self-medication and natural remedies, without the consent of the doctor. In case of severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.