Patulous Eustachian tube is a condition wherein the Eustachian tube, which is the tube that connects the middle ear to the pharynx, stays intermittently open. Given below is some information on the causes, symptoms and the treatment of this medical condition.
The Eustachian tube, which is commonly known as the auditory tube, is a long narrow tube that links the middle ear to the pharynx. This tube not only performs the vital function of equalizing the ear pressure on both sides of the eardrum, it also facilitates the drainage of mucus. This tube stays closed normally, and opens only when there is a need to equalize the pressure in the middle ear with the atmospheric pressure.
Patulous Eustachian tube, also referred to as patent Eustachian tube, is a rare disorder, wherein this tube remains patent or open, most of the time. This gives rise to ear problems such as roaring tinnitus or autophony. Scroll down to find out more on this rare ear disorder.
Causes and Symptoms of Patent Eustachian Tube
You might be wondering what is it that causes the Eustachian tube to become patent or stay open most of the time. Well, let me tell you about certain conditions that may predispose one to this ear disorder. It is believed that weight loss can cause the fatty tissues, that surround the tube, to shrink. This can diminish the tissue pressure that keeps the tube in a closed position and may put one at an increased risk of developing abnormal patency. Pregnant women may also be susceptible to this condition. This may be attributed to the effect of pregnancy hormones on the surface tension, tissue pressure or the structure of fatty tissue or the mucus membranes that line the respiratory organs.
Since the Eustachian tube facilitates the drainage of mucus and also equalizes the pressure on both sides of the tympanic membrane or the eardrum, the abnormal patency of the tube would cause a variety of disturbing symptoms. First of all, the auditory perception would be greatly affected. Distorted autophony is one of the many symptoms that patients are most likely to experience. Autophony is characterized by unusually loud hearing of the self-generated sounds. The sufferer is most likely to hear his own breath sounds or sounds that are generated while talking or swallowing food.
These sounds would, in fact, get enhanced due to this condition. When the Eustachian tube is abnormally patent, it gives rise to pressure changes. This allows these sounds to get conducted into the middle ear and inner ear. One is most likely to experience a feeling of fullness in ears. The increased resonance of the self-generated sounds made while chewing or swallowing food, or even the arterial murmurs, can actually be quite disturbing. The self-generated sounds may echo in one’s ears. The sound of the heartbeat may be conducted into the middle ear. This condition is medically referred to as pulsatile tinnitus.
The resultant changes in the pressure may even make one susceptible to vertigo. The sounds may echo in the ear, and the perceived volume of the voice may constantly bother the patient. This condition may therefore, interfere with the articulation of speech. More often than not, patients respond to the altered auditory perception, by speaking very softly. As a result, others may have difficulty in understanding them.
Treatment of Patent Eustachian Tube
It is extremely important that this condition is not misdiagnosed as a blocked Eustachian tube or other ear problems. If a person is complaining of a plugged ear sensation along with autophony, there is a need to examine the eardrum properly. There’s a great need to identify the underlying cause properly, due to the fact that the symptoms of this Eustachian tube disorder may appear to indicate nasal congestion or other ear problems. If the doctors are unable to formulate a correct diagnosis, and prescribe medication for nasal congestion or other problems, the symptoms may even worsen.
As far as the treatment is concerned, an analysis of the underlying cause can help in providing insights regarding the remedial measures. Most of the doctors are in agreement regarding the effect of intense physical activity on this condition. Since physical exertion can worsen this ear condition, one must refrain from performing intense workouts. A person who seems to have developed this condition, owing to weight loss, would benefit by putting on weight. Foods or beverages that may dehydrate the body must be avoided.
Performing yoga, breathing exercises or facial exercises may also prove beneficial. One must, however, perform exercises only after consulting a yoga practitioner or a physical therapist. There have also been instances of patients getting relief from trying positional maneuvers. Tilting the head to one side or lying down may ease the symptoms for some time, but these are temporary measures.
As mentioned earlier, some women may develop this condition during pregnancy. Under such circumstances, nasal drops that contain estrogen may be prescribed so as to cause the Eustachian tube opening to swell up. A saturated solution of potassium iodide may also be administered orally. At times, doctors may prescribe the use of nasal drugs that have diluted hydrochloric acid, benzyl alcohol or chlorobutanol.
Since some of the drugs have still not approved by the FDA, care must be taken and any side effects must be reported to the doctors. In severe cases, where the conservative treatment options don’t seem to help, surgery may be recommended. Surgeons may cauterize or close the Eustachian tube or use collagen, fat or gel foam to bulk up the Eustachian tube tissues. These surgical procedures, however, are resorted to in severe cases. It is to be noted that the success rate of the surgical procedures may not be very high.
This was a brief overview on the risk factors, symptoms and treatment of patent auditory tube. Since the symptoms of this disorder are quite distressing, and may affect one’s ability to lead a normal life, a person who has been diagnosed with this Eustachian tube problem, must follow the dietary guidelines and make other lifestyle-related changes that have been suggested by the otologist.