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DEC

Posted on Monday, December 08, 2014

Blockage Within the Middle Ear

Blockage within an ear like this one can cause problems hearing.

Within the middle ear is a tube called the Eustachian tube. It regulates pressure in the air but can be blocked or have problems. When flying if you've ever swallowed or yawned to contract muscles in your throat and "pop" your ears, you were doing so to relieve pressure in that tube. This doesn't always work. And the fullness or the feeling that you can't hear properly can be a sign of a more serious blockage within the middle ear.

The Eustachian tube regulates pressure in the middle ear and connects the middle ear, throat, and nose. A blockage of the Eustachian tubes prevents it from properly regulating air causing pain, a popping sensation, higher infection risk, and hearing loss.

The common build up of fluid in the middle ear due to bacteria or other conditions like sinus problems can result in an inability to regulate the pressure in the middle ear and can lead to inflammation and an ear infection called otitis media. Ear pain, sore throat, headache, clicking, and hearing loss can all be signs of a middle ear infection.

Ear infections can range in severity and can cause mild to extreme pain. Fever, drainage, dizziness, and ear pain indicate that you need to see a doctor about your ear pain, fullness, or discomfort. Otitis media is more common in the winter and fall months, more common in children as they have a smaller Eustachian tube, and more common in certain populations like Native Americans.

In addition to the pain of middle ear infections there can also be mild to sever hearing loss that can be temporary, if treated, but may become permanent if left untreated. Common treatment for ear infections include the use of antibiotics, and some people also find additional help with the dizziness symptom from staying away from caffeine, sugar, and salt. Taking care of sinus problems can also help to keep infections down, but some people are prone to these infections and have Eustachian tube dysfunction.

Eustachian tube dysfunction can lead to an accumulation of mucus that can impair the ear permanently. Repeated bouts of these types of infections, when unable to be aided by antibiotics, may require surgery. One type of surgery that is common among children is bilateral myringotomy. By inserting ear tubes this surgery helps with blockage and relieves pressure. These tubes eventually fall out or are removed. A newer surgery that may be considered is Eustachian tuboplasty.

Eustachian tuboplasty is outpatient surgery that requires general anesthesia and uses a laser to clear mucus and the mucus secreting lining known as the mucosa. In addition, surgeons may choose to enlarge the opening by removing cartilage. This surgery is still new, but early results indicate that there are rarely severe problems and recovery time is low.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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