Eustachian Tube Dysfunction or ETD is a relatively common condition. Depending on the cause, ETD might be able to resolve on its own, but sometimes it requires at-home treatments or even a visit to the doctor. Eustachian tubes are the small tubes that run between the ears and the throat. These tubes drain fluid from behind the eardrum and equalize ear pressure. Because these tubes are small, they can sometimes get blocked. When the tubes are blocked, you might experience pain, a feeling of fullness in the ears, and even hearing difficulties.
How Can I Tell if I Have Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?
When the eustachian tubes become inflamed or blocked with mucus, you might experience symptoms of ETD. Allergies and illnesses like the common cold are the most common causes of ETD. Sometimes altitude changes can also pose problems for the ears. Flying on an airplane, traveling or hiking through mountainous regions, or even riding an elevator can all cause symptoms of ETD. These symptoms include:
· A feeling of fullness in the ears, like the ears are plugged
· Difficulty hearing
· Ringing in the ears
· Popping or clicking sounds in the ears
The cause of ETD affects how long the symptoms last. ETD from allergies or from the common cold will probably last longer than ETD caused by flying in an airplane, which will likely resolve when you get back to your normal altitude.
Should I See a Doctor?
More than likely, your symptoms will resolve on their own. However, if your symptoms are severe or last longer than two weeks, it is best to see a doctor. If your child is suffering from symptoms of ETD, it may be better to see a doctor sooner rather than later. Children are at a higher risk of ear infections, and pain from ETD can feel like the pain from an ear infection. Your doctor can do a physical exam and look inside the ear, ear canal, and nose and throat passages.
Depending on how severe the symptoms are and the cause, your doctor might recommend over-the-counter medications, home remedies, or even prescription drugs. Home remedies include:
· Chewing gum
· Saline nasal spray to clean out passageways
If you or your child suffer from ETD symptoms and it disrupts your life for longer than a week or two, consult with your doctor today.