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Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD)

What is it?

Eustachian tubes are small tubes that run directly from each ear to the back of the throat. They are responsible for equalizing ear pressure and draining fluid from the middle ear, the part of the ear behind the eardrum. These tubes are small and can get plugged for a variety of reasons. Such a phenomenon is referred to as eustachian tube dysfunction. Blocking of Eustachian tube may lead to build up of fluids behind ear drum, that if persist results into recurrent ear infections & other complications.

Risk Factors

  • Children are at greater risk. The function of this tube is compromised in children because of the size & position of the tube and the fact that in children, is primarily made of cartilage versus adults where it is made up of bone. Blocking of Eustachian tube may lead to build up of fluids behind the ear drum, that if persist results into recurrent ear infections, accompanied hearing loss & speech delay.
  • Other risk factors include – Obesity/smoking/environmental allergies, nose or sinus congestions/activities with rapid altitude changes, such as flying in an airplane or traveling in the mountains/Rarely, a tumour in the nasopharynx (the upper part of the throat behind the nose)

Symptoms

  • Ears that hurt and feel full
  • Ears feeling like they are filled with water
  • Ringing or popping/crackling noises in the ears
  • Feeling dizzy/imbalance
  • muffled hearing or partial hearing loss

How we treat?

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.

Treatment may include:

  • Prescription for a nasal spray
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • A mucus thinner
  • Over-the-Counter (OTC) nasal saline spray or mist daily

Children who get recurrent ear infections often may need surgery to place small ventilation tubes/grommets, inside their ears to allow fluid to drain out. In cases that involve enlarged adenoids, surgical removal of the adenoids may be necessary.

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