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What is Eustachian Tube Congestion?

The eustachian tubes are located on each side of the face and connect the middle ear to the back of the throat and nose. These tubes usually remain closed, but they open up whenever you swallow, chew, or yawn. If swelling or fluid builds up within these passageways, it may block your eardrums from draining properly. As a result, pressure or excess fluid can accumulate in the middle ear, which leads to eustachian tube congestion. 

Symptoms of Eustachian Tube Congestion 

With eustachian tube congestion, you may experience a variety of symptoms, including: 

  • Pain and tenderness
  • A “plugged” or “full” sensation
  • Tinnitus: ringing in the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Tickling or tingling feeling 
  • Clicking or popping sounds
  • Difficulty with balance

Pain associated with this condition can be exacerbated by changes in altitude, such as flying on an airplane or diving underwater.

Causes of Eustachian Tube Congestion 

The primary cause of eustachian tube congestion is an upper respiratory infection, which is often due to the common cold virus. Seasonal allergies and other illnesses that create inflammation in the area are also frequent causes of this condition. Certain risk factors that may increase your chances of developing eustachian tube congestion include: 

  • Age: children’s tubes are shorter and straighter, making it easier for fluid to become trapped
  • Tobacco Use: smoking damages the microscopic hairs in the nose, allowing mucus to accrue in the tubes
  • Obesity: fatty deposits around the eustachian tubes can form, making it more likely for them to become closed off 

Treatment for Eustachian Tube Congestion 

A majority of the time, eustachian tube congestion resolves itself on its own without any interventional treatment. Minor symptoms caused by the condition can be helped with: 

  • Yawning  
  • Saline nasal spray
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines: Zyrtec, Benadryl, or Claritin
  • Pain relievers: Tylenol, Advil, or Motrin 
  • Chewing gum

However, if your symptoms become severe or last longer than two weeks, you should seek treatment at the Ear and Sinus Institute. There, your ear and nose specialist can accurately diagnose your condition using a physical exam. If your pain is due to an infection, then you will likely be prescribed an antibiotic to relieve your symptoms. 

For severe cases, your specialist may try pressure equalization tubes to balance out ear pressure or make a small cut in the eardrum so any excess fluid can drain out. Depending on the extent of your condition, you may also be eligible for a Eustachian Tube Balloon Dilation procedure, which has been proven to drastically reduce the need for ear tubes and other ear procedures. Without adequate treatment, there is a possibility that you may develop a middle ear infection, also known as chronic otitis media

Ear candles have been used in the past to soothe symptoms of eustachian tube congestion. However, this method of treatment has been proven to be ineffective and potentially unsafe, so the Ear and Sinus Institute recommends avoiding these products.  

Contact Ear and Sinus Institute

At the Ear and Sinus Institute in Fort Worth, Texas, you will have full access to Marc Dean, MD. Dr. Dean is a board-certified otolaryngologist, who specializes in ear and sinus diseases and disorders of the eustachian tube. Dr. Dean understands that ear problems may sometimes progress into more long-term and painful conditions, so he prioritizes treating problems as soon as they arise. Contact the Ear and Sinus Institute today to learn more about our treatment options for eustachian tube congestion and other conditions affecting the sinuses. 

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Call Us to Schedule an Appointment: (817) 332-4060
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