There are a few different causes of eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD), and certain factors may make a person more at risk. Eustachian tube dysfunction is often easily treated at home, although persistent symptoms may require a trip to the doctor for your hearing issues to be treated.
The eustachian tubes are canals on each side of the face that run from the back of the nose and upper throat to the middle ear. They remain closed most of the time but will open as a person swallows, chews or yawns. The eustachian tubes help regulate ear pressure and drain excess fluid from the middle ear, moving it to the throat to be eliminated. The canals in these tubes are tiny, so blockages can happen for many reasons.
Blocked eustachian tubes can cause discomfort and hearing problems, and any of these symptoms can be referred to as ETD. If you are experiencing a muffled sound or pain in your ears, we welcome you to contact our center in Sarasota. Drs. Marlowe & Houle have over 20 years of experience in treating ear, nose, and throat concerns. We will work hard to determine the cause of your ETD and do all we can to prevent hearing loss.
Causes and Diagnosis of ETD
ETD covers a broad range of symptoms and has a range of potential causes. Seasonal allergies and illnesses that create inflammation in the area, such as the flu or cold, are common causes of ETD.
Sinus infections can also trigger ETD, as a sinus infection causes the eustachian tubes to become inflamed or filled with mucus. More serious infections can cause ETD as well.
In addition, simple changes in altitude or air pressure may trigger ETD. Driving up a mountain or sitting in a plane can cause ETD, and even just riding the elevator in a tall building may be enough for some people to develop unpleasant symptoms.
ETD is often diagnosed during a visit to a doctor, when the doctor may ask questions about hearing changes, pain in the ears or feelings of pressure. They will also look inside the ear using an otoscope, checking for any signs of infection or blockages.
If ETD is being caused by another illness or disorder, the doctor may ask questions about that as well, in order to determine the correct treatment.
Treatment of ETD
The symptoms of ETD will usually clear up on their own. If another illness is causing the symptoms, they will resolve once the underlying illness is treated.
If the symptoms of ETD are bothersome, some simple home remedies may help. Minor ETD symptoms, such as those caused by a change in altitude or air pressure, can be treated by chewing gum or forcing a yawn.
Many people also find that the symptoms of minor ETD can go away as they swallow, so drinking or having a snack may help. These remedies help open and close the eustachian tube and relieve the pressure.
Children experiencing minor or temporary ETD symptoms can eat a snack or chew a piece of gum. Giving an infant a bottle or pacifier may help relieve the symptoms.
Minor to moderate symptoms may be relieved using a saline nasal spray or irrigation system. Sometimes dried mucus or other particles can get stuck in or near the eustachian tube and cause symptoms. Clearing the passageways can help eliminate anything clogged in the passage.
Depending on the cause, some over-the-counter drugs may help with ETD symptoms. Someone who experiences ETD caused by allergies may find relief using antihistamines. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, may help with pain and swelling.
If the symptoms of ETD are caused by a bacterial infection, a doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. This may be a topical treatment or an oral antibiotic. In severe cases of ETD, a doctor may prescribe oral steroids as well.
Long lasting, severe cases of ETD are not common but can require extensive and sometimes invasive treatments. In some cases, fluids build up behind the eardrum and cannot escape through the dysfunctional eustachian tubes. In these cases, doctors may make a small cut in the eardrum to help with fluid drainage.
People who experience frequent severe ETD may be treated using pressure equalization tubes. These are implants that balance the pressure in the ears and help reduce the chances of middle ear infections.
A new, less invasive method of treatment being used by Marlowe & Houle is called eustachian tube balloon dilation, and it can be completed in our Sarasota office. During the procedure, a balloon is placed in the eustachian tube by going through your nose. So your doctor will first give you anesthesia to numb the inside of your nose, then he will insert and gently inflate the balloon to dilate the treatment area. The balloon dilation expands the eustachian tube to restore its open pathway. After two minutes of dilation, the balloon is deflated and removed.
Hearing Loss Treatments In Sarasota, Florida
Hearing loss due to Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD) is entirely preventable in most cases and can be resolved with proper care and guidance. At Marlowe MD, we’re committed to ensuring the healthy function of your hearing. To learn more about our ETD and hearing loss treatments, request an appointment by calling (941) 379-3277 or selecting and filling out the appropriate form below.