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Ear pressure solutions

Ear barotrauma is a condition that causes ear discomfort due to pressure changes. In each ear there is a tube that connects the middle of your ear to your throat and nose. It also helps regulate ear pressure. This tube is called the eustachian tube. When the tube is blocked, you may experience ear barotrauma.

The Eustachian tube originates in the rear of the nose adjacent to the soft palate, runs a slightly uphill course, and ends in the middle ear space. The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear space to the rear of the nose near the soft palate. The middle ear space is the hollowed out portion of the skull bone that contains the hearing apparatus and is covered on one side by the eardrum.

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The tissue that lines the Eustachian tube is similar to that inside the nasal cavity and may respond the same way (swelling and mucous production) when presented with similar stimuli. Normally, the Eustachian tube is closed, but it can become partially or completely blocked as a consequence of common colds or allergies. Partial or complete blockage of the Eustachian tube can cause sensations of popping, clicking, and ear fullness. Altitude changes can cause symptoms in persons with Eustachian tube problems.

If you have ear barotrauma, you may feel an uncomfortable pressure inside the ear. Common symptoms, which occur earlier or in mild to moderate cases, may include:

  • dizziness
  • general ear discomfort
  • slight hearing loss or difficulty hearing
  • stuffiness or fullness in the ear

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If it progresses long enough without treatment or the case is particularly severe, symptoms may intensify. Additional symptoms that may occur in these cases include:

  • ear pain
  • feeling of pressure in the ears, as if you were underwater
  • nosebleed
  • moderate to severe hearing loss or difficulty
  • ear drum injury

Once treated, almost all symptoms will go away. Hearing loss from ear barotrauma is almost always temporary and reversible.

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Several maneuvers can be done to improve Eustachian tube function.

  • The simple act of swallowing activates the muscles in the back of the throat that help open the Eustachian tube. Any activity that promotes swallowing can help open the Eustachian tube, for example, chewing gum, drinking, or eating. Yawning is even more effective because it is a stronger muscle activator.
  • If the ears still feel full, the person can try to forcibly open the Eustachian tube by taking a deep breath and blowing while pinching your nostrils and closing the mouth. When a “pop” is felt, you know you have succeeded. If problems persist despite trying to forcibly open the tubes you may need to seek medical attention. If you feel dizzy performing this maneuver, then stop and discuss this with your doctor.
  • If you have a cold, sinus infection, ear infection, or suffering from allergies, it may be advisable to postpone air travel.
  • Similarly, individuals with Eustachian tube problems may find such sports as scuba diving painful, and in some situations quite dangerous.
  • Babies traveling on airplanes cannot intentionally pop their ears, but may do so if they are sucking on a bottle or pacifier. Crying, similar in function to yawning, will also enable equalization of air pressure.

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