- Who Gets Them?
- Side Effects
What is a blocked eustachian tube?
Eustachian tubes are inside the ears and connect the middle ear to the back of the nose. They help the ears drain fluid, stabilize air pressure inside the ear, and keep germs out.
Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the throat. When you yawn or swallow, the tubes open to match the pressure inside the ears to the pressure outside. Sometimes fluid or pressure can get stuck in the ear or swelling can occur, which blocks the tubes. The pressure outside the tubes gets too high and causes pain.
Symptoms of blocked eustachian tubes
Blocked eustachian tube symptoms include:
Small children may repeatedly pull or rub their ears.
Causes of blocked eustachian tubes
Sinus infections, colds, and allergies can cause swelling in the eustachian tubes. This stops the tubes from opening, which can lead to fluid buildup in the ear. This may cause ear pain, a plugged feeling, or an ear infection.
Air pressure in the ear may also change while scuba diving, flying on airplanes, or driving up or down a mountain.
Other conditions may cause blocked eustachian tubes, including:
Who can get blocked eustachian tubes?
Anyone can get a blocked eustachian tube. These are often caused by swelling and fluid buildup from a common cold or allergies. People who scuba dive or fly in airplanes may also have a higher chance of experiencing blocked eustachian tubes. A quick change in pressure can cause the tube to close up.
Children are most likely to have blocked eustachian tubes. Their tubes are shorter and more easily blocked.
Tests for blocked eustachian tubes
Your doctor will do a physical exam to check for symptoms of blocked eustachian tubes. They will look for swelling and redness in your ears as well as your throat. They may also look for swollen adenoids, check your temperature, and ask about other symptoms like pain and pressure.
If you have chronically blocked eustachian tubes, your doctor may test your hearing, or look for underlying causes.
Treatments for blocked eustachian tubes
Eustachian tube treatment often isn’t needed as a blocked tube usually gets better on its own. However, there are steps you can take to help your symptoms.
Some over-the-counter medications may be helpful for blocked eustachian tube treatment. These may include:
If you need additional help, your doctor may prescribe:
The simplest way to manage a blocked eustachian tube is home treatment. You can equalize pressure, loosen fluid, and relieve pain with different methods. These may include:
- Chewing gum
- Swallowing and yawning
- Blowing up a balloon
- Closing your mouth, plugging your nose, and blowing air until the ear pops
- Sucking on a candy
- A warm washcloth on the ear
Do not give chewing gum or hard candies to children under age four.
If you have allergies, avoiding allergens may also help sinuses and chronic ear problems. You may need to talk to your doctor about other treatments that could help.
Sometimes you may need surgery as part of eustachian tube treatment. Usually, this only happens if the problem is chronic and nothing helps. Children who have chronic ear infections may have a small ear tube inserted to help drain fluid. This will eventually fall out on its own after a few months.
Sometimes your doctor may also make a small cut in the eardrum and let the fluid drain out. If you have a deviated septum or a cleft palate that affects your eustachian tubes, they may want to do surgeries to correct these and relieve your symptoms.
Side effects of treatments for blocked eustachian tubes
There is always a risk of serious complications from surgery. However, surgery can often be done with a local anesthetic to reduce the risk of general anesthesia. Crusting, infection, obstruction, and a ruptured eardrum are all possible side effects of ear tube surgery. These are rare, however.
If you try blowing to clear your ears, you can burst your eardrum if you blow too hard. Be gentle. If you have a cold or infection, you might also send mucus into the ear and cause an ear infection.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Health Technology Assessment: "Interventions for adult Eustachian tube dysfunction: a systematic review."
Stanford Health Care: "Eustachian Tube Problems."
Stanford Health Care: "Treatments for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction."
Texas Sinus Institute: "Eustachian Tube Dysfunction."
Top How Do You Clear Blocked Eustachian Tubes Related Articles
Ear Infections: All About Ear ConditionsWhat's that? I can't hear you. Maybe it's tinnitus, or impacted ear wax, or cauliflower ear (yup, that's a thing). Find out what may be ailing your ears in this slideshow.
Ear Infection SlideshowLearn about the causes and symptoms of ear infections and how they are diagnosed and treated. Read about treatments such as ear tubes and antibiotics, which could prevent future ear infections.
Hearing LossHearing loss (deafness) may be present at birth or it may manifest later in life. Deafness may be genetic or due to damage from noise. Treatment of deafness depends upon its cause. Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by conditions affecting the:
- eighth cranial nerve,
- spinal cord, or
- Meniere's disease,
- noise-induced hearing loss
- hearing loss of aging (presbycusis),
- nerve injury from syphilis,
- hearing loss of unknown cause (idiopathic hearing loss),
- nerve tumors, and
- drug toxicity (such as aspirin and aminoglycosides).
Ear Health QuizHow loud is too loud? Take this quiz to learn about your ears, how they function, and how to keep them healthy.
Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)Middle ear infection (otitis media) is inflammation of the middle ear. There are two forms of this type of ear infection, acute and chronic. Acute otitis media is generally short in duration, and chronic otitis media generally lasts several weeks. Babies, toddlers, and children with a middle ear infection may be irritable, pull and tug at their ears, and experience numerous other symptoms and signs. Treatment depends upon the type of ear infection.
Ear Infection Home Treatment
Infections of the outer, middle, and inner ear usually are caused by viruses. Most outer (swimmer's ear) and middle ear (otitis media) infections can be treated at home with remedies like warm compresses for ear pain relief, tea tree, ginger, or garlic oil drops.
Symptoms of an outer ear (swimmer's ear) and middle ear infection include mild to severe ear pain, pus draining from the ear, swelling and redness in the ear, and hearing problems. Middle and inner ear infections may cause fever, and balance problems. Inner ear infections also may cause nausea, vomiting, vertigo, ringing in the ear, and labyrinthitis (inflammation of the inner ear).
Most outer and middle ear infections do not need antibiotics. Inner ear infections should be treated by a doctor specializing in ear and hearing problems.
Ear Infection QuizIs it possible to prevent ear infections? Take the Ear Infection (Otitis Media) Quiz to learn the risks, causes, symptoms and treatments for the common ear infection.
Earwax (ear wax) is a natural substance secreted by special glands in the skin on the outer part of the ear canal. It repels water, and traps dust and sand particles. Usually a small amount of wax accumulates, dries up, and then falls out of the ear canal carrying with it unwanted particles. Under ideal circumstances, you should never have to clean your ear canals. The absence of ear wax may result in dry, itchy ears, and even infection. Ear wax may accumulate in the ear for a variety of reasons including; narrowing of the ear canal, production of less ear wax due to aging, or an overproduction of ear wax in response to trauma or blockage within the ear canal.
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
The Eustachian tube is a membrane lined tube that connects the middle ear space to the back of the nose. Symptoms of Eustachian tube dysfunction or blockage include popping and/or clicking in the ear, and ear fullness and/or pain.
Causes of Eustachian tube dysfunction or blockage include allergies, sinus infections, ear infections, and the common cold.
Treatment includes home remedies to relieve pain and several maneuvers (swallowing, chewing gum, yawning etc.), which can be done to improve Eustachian tube function. In severe cases surgery may be necessary.
Hearing Loss: Causes of Hearing LossProblems with your ears like ear infections can cause signs of hearing loss. This may be sensorineural hearing loss or conductive hearing loss. Learn how loud noises can induce hearing loss, the signs of hearing loss, and different ways you can prevent hearing problems.
Hearing Losss QuizCan hearing loss be reversed? Take this quiz to find out!
How Long Can a Foreign Object Stay in Your Ear?A foreign object cannot fall out from your ear on its own. It can stay in your ear until you do not remove it or get it removed.
Inner Ear Infection (Symptoms, Signs, Treatments, Home Remedies)An inner ear infection or otitis interna is caused by viruses or bacteria and can occur in both adults and children. An inner ear infection can cause symptoms and signs, for example, a severe ear, dizziness, vertigo, nausea and vomiting, and vertigo. An inner ear infection also may cause inflammation of the inner ear or labyrinthitis. Inner ear infections are not contagious; however, the bacteria and viruses that cause the infection can be transmitted to other people. Good hygiene practices will help decrease the chances of the infection spreading to others. Inner ear infection symptoms and signs like ear pain and nausea may be relieved with home remedies or over the counter (OTC) medication. Some inner ear infections will need to be treated and cured with antibiotics or prescription pain or antinausea medication.
Inner Ear Infection (Labyrinthitis)
Labyrinthitis is inflammation of the labyrinth (the part of the ear responsible for balance and hearing). Doctors do not know the exact cause of labyrinthitis; however, they often are associated viral infections of the inner ear. Symptoms of labyrinthitis are ear pain or earache, ear discharge, problems with balance and walking, ringing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and vertigo. Viral infections associated with labyrinthitis are contagious.
Home remedies may help labyrinthitis symptoms and signs. Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medication may treat inner ear infections, labyrinthitis symptoms like vertigo and nausea, and help ear pain.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss and Its PreventionNoise-induced hearing loss may be an acoustic trauma, which causes temporary hearing loss, or it may be permanent due to an acute acoustic trauma. Experts agree that continual exposure to more then 85 dBs (decibels) is dangerous to the ears. Ear plugs and ear muffs can help prevent noise-induced hearing loss as well as decreasing exposure to loud noises.
Foreign Objects or Insects in the EarObjects or insects in the ear can be placed in the ear by patients themselves or an insect crawling in the ear. Earwax can also cause ear problems if Q-tips are overused to clean the ears. Symptoms of an object in the ear are inflammation and sensitivity, redness, or discharge of pus or blood. When to seek medical care for an object or insect in the ear is included in the article information.