Eustachian tubes are tiny passageways connecting the middle ear to the back of the nose. They allow air pressure changes to travel from the outside environment into the middle ear. When they become blocked or narrowed, they cause symptoms such as hearing loss, dizziness, and tinnitus.
Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD) is a condition where the eustachian tubes fail to function
properly. This causes fluid buildup in the middle ear, causing pain and discomfort. The condition is usually caused by allergies, sinus infections, nasal polyps, or other conditions affecting the nose.
ETD is often misdiagnosed as otitis media, a common childhood infection. If left untreated, ETD can lead to serious complications. In some cases, surgery is required to correct the problem.
The most obvious symptom of ETD is an inability to hear normally. Other symptoms include:
Headache Ear pain
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) Difficulty swallowing
Dizziness Nausea Fever
Sore throat Diagnosis
A doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. He or she may also order tests to help rule out other problems that could be causing similar symptoms.
If you have been diagnosed with ETD, your doctor will likely recommend treatment for it. Treatment options vary depending on how severe your symptoms are.
You can take steps to prevent ETD. These include:
Avoiding allergens like dust mites and mold Keeping your home clean
Using humidifiers when necessary Taking allergy medication regularly
See your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
Headaches Ear pain
Dizziness or lightheadedness Nausea
Crying spells Sore throat Fatigue
Lack of appetite Weight loss
To diagnose ETD, your doctor may use one or more of the following tests:
Otoscopy – A visual examination of the ear canal and tympanic membrane (eardrum). Your doctor may use this test to look for signs of inflammation or swelling.
Tympanometry – An instrument used to measure the size of the eardrum. It helps determine whether there is fluid behind the eardrum.
Audiogram – A test that measures the sound waves traveling through the ear. This test may be done after an audiometric evaluation has determined that you have normal hearing.
Audiometric Evaluation – A test that determines what frequencies are being heard at different levels of intensity.
Medical Imaging Tests
Your doctor may recommend imaging tests to evaluate the status of your eustachian tubes. Imaging tests may be performed using X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, or ultrasound.
X-ray – An image created by exposing a patient to radiation.
Computed Tomography Scan (CT scan) – A diagnostic procedure that uses x-rays to produce detailed images of body structures. A contrast medium may be injected into a vein before taking the scan.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – A diagnostic technique that produces detailed pictures of organs and tissues using powerful magnets and radiofrequency. No exposure to x-rays or ionizing radiation occurs during an MRI scan.
Ultrasound – A diagnostic tool that creates images of internal organs by transmitting high-frequency sounds waves through tissue. The echoes from the waves return to a receiver where they are
converted into electrical signals.
An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube equipped with a miniature camera lens and light source.
Doctors insert the endoscope into the ear canal to examine the middle ear and Eustachian tube.
Medications & Nasal Sprays to Cure ETD
Some medications may cause or worsen ETD. If you are prescribed any of these drugs, tell your doctor or pharmacist about them. Also, let your doctor know if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
Nasal sprays for ETD
A nasal spray may help relieve some symptoms of ETD. You should not use a nasal spray unless directed to do so by your doctor. Talk to your doctor about which type of nasal spray would work best for you.
If you think you might have ETD, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can prevent complications such as middle ear infections and other serious conditions.
Home remedies for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
There are several home remedies for ETD. However, many people find that their condition improves naturally without medical intervention. In some cases, you may need to try multiple treatments
before finding relief. Talk with your doctor about which home remedy might work best for you.
1. Elevate the head of the bed
If you sleep on your back, elevate the head of your bed so that it’s higher than your shoulders. Sleeping in this position can help prevent fluid buildup in the ears.
2. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol can irritate the lining of the throat and nose, causing fluid to build up in the ears. Avoiding alcohol can reduce symptoms.
3. Cough medicine
Cough medicines such as cough drops can cause irritation to the eustachian tube. Try switching brands or types of cough medicine.