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Blocked Eustachian Tube Symptoms and Causes

Eustachian tube dysfunction symptoms

Most people don’t realize they have a pair of “Eustachian tubes” in their bodies, and yet the latter may cause terrible discomfort when blocked. Today I’ll teach you everything you need to know on this matter, including a fabulous treatment. What are the most common blocked Eustachian tube symptoms? How can you relieve your condition? What are these fancy Eustachian tubes to begin with?

Let’s go one step at a time.

What are the Eustachian tubes and what’s their function in your body?

ear diagram - how to treat an ear infection at home

Eustachian tubes are tiny passageways that connect your middle ear to the nasopharynx (the part of your throat that’s directly behind the nasal cavity). They are about 35 mm (1.4 inches) long and 3 mm (0.12 inches) in diameter, with two main functions to perform:

  1. Prevent accumulation of fluid in the middle ear by draining it into the throat. This is quite useful during infections and allergies, when inflammatory exudate is formed in the ear.

  2. Equalize the air pressure inside the middle ear with the external air pressure.

Your Eustachian tubes are collapsed most of the time, opening up during swallowing, yawning, chewing, and with positive pressure from the mouth direction. When you cannot open these tubes for any reason (and therefore cannot drain what’s inside your ear and equalize pressure), you get a condition called Eustachian tube dysfunction or blocked Eustachian tubes.

What causes blocked Eustachian tubes?

Blocked or clogged Eustachian tubes can be caused by quite a lot of different factors and conditions, but let’s take a look at the most common of them.

  • Infections and/or inflammations of the throat, nose, sinuses, and ear. Remember, the diameter of each of the tubes is just 3 mm (0.12 inches). If its mucous membrane gets significantly inflamed due to a disease of the throat, nose, sinuses, or ear – it might thicken up, thus closing the passage connecting the throat and middle ear.

  • Allergies. These nasty conditions are very peculiar types of inflammation, so they might also cause the thickening of the mucous membrane of your Eustachian tubes and thus block them.

  • Smoking. It is believed that smoking can damage the cilia (something similar to microscopic hairs) lining your Eustachian tubes. The function of the cilia is to promote the movement of any kind of liquid from the tubes downwards, into the throat, so if they are damaged liquid gets accumulated easier in your tubes, resulting in their blockage.

  • Fluctuations in surrounding air pressure. The idea is simple: when the external pressure significantly goes down (for example, when your plane takes off or when you reach a significant altitude when hiking), the air inside your middle ear expands and escapes through the Eustachian tubes into your mouth. Later, when the pressure goes up, the little portion of air still left in the middle ear shrinks, resulting in a slight vacuum that keeps your Eustachian tubes shut from the inside. This condition is alleviated only by actively opening the tubes.

    Eustachian tube dysfunction symptoms

Blocked Eustachian tube symptoms

  1. A sensation of “fullness” and pressure inside the ears. Many people affirm that they feel a real blockage, like some sort of plug stuck deep into their ears.

  2. Pain in the ears (during severe blockage). If the dysfunction persists and liquid continues to build up in the middle ear without draining via the Eustachian tubes, you may experience pain in the affected ears.

  3. Impaired hearing. The sounds around you may become muffled and silenced, up to the point of scarcely hearing any sounds at all.

  4. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Although this symptom is more common to the patulous (ever-open) type of Eustachian tube dysfunction, blocked Eustachian tubes can also be accompanied by tinnitus.

  5. Dizziness and vertigo (during severe blockage). These symptoms result from a significant build-up of fluid in the middle ear, up to the point that the pressure applied by it interferes with the proper functioning of the inner ear, the organ in your body which is responsible for balance.

  6. A “clicking” sound of your tubes opening. When your Eustachian tubes are blocked, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are paralyzed for good. Sometimes they may even open up incidentally but for moments so brief that they won’t make a significant change. This opening of the Eustachian tubes is usually heard by their owner as a silent “click” in the ears.

How to cure blocked Eustachian tubes?

Chances are you’ve already heard the usual advice: chew some gum, yawn a bit, swallow stuff. In some cases, these tips really work and everything gets solved for good. But what if it doesn’t?

The terrible discomfort that can be caused by blocked Eustachian tubes is depressing, especially when it lasts for significant periods of time. You try everything, you do your best – and still live in a muffled world, as if trying to hear everything through a pair of thick pillows. I know, I’ve been there.

So what’s the solution?

Well, after a ton of money and time wasted on options that did not work, I’ve finally found personal relief in a device called Eustachi, the Eustachian tube exerciser. For all those interested, I’ve written a detailed review on this product dedicated to all fellow souls who have ever experienced the annoying problem of blocked Eustachian tubes.

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If you have any questions about Eustachian tube dysfunction or if you would like to share your experience in dealing with this terrible condition,  please leave a comment in the section below.

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8 Comments

  1. I hate it when that happens! We had such bad forest fires in our area this past summer, and my allergies were crazy. I felt that pressure in my ears and the clicking sound off and on all summer, as well as the sense of fullness. That product looks so simple to use but I do not quite get how it works? Can you explain?

    • Hi Irma, the product I used for my blocked eustachian tube problem is such a simple idea but also so effective, unlike so many other treatments out there. Basically our eustachian tubes open to drain fluid and regulate the pressure from the inner ear, when they are not opening as they should we get a build up of pressure and a feeling of fullness in the ears. Swallowing and yawning are our body’s natural way of opening the eustachian tubes and the eusachi device aids this process, simply by giving a boost of air that circulates to open the tubes. Although so simple, it brought me instant relief after all other methods of treating this problem failed. There is no cure for ETD but this thing has really helped, not just me but so many others that have lived with this condition for many years. Hope this has been helpful to you Irma.

  2. I have bad allergies and often experience the symptoms you describe in this post, mainly the sensation of fullness and pressure and muffled sound in one or both ears. For short term relief I mostly swallow and there is a popping sound, then the ear(s) “opens up”. But it returns and the process starts over again. This goes on through the allergy season. For better and more effective relief through the allergy season I take a Zyrtec at night and use Nasacort spray in the morning and that will clear up any ear issues associated with my allergies.
    Don

    • Hi Don, it must be frustrating having to deal with these unpleasant symptoms caused by allergies. Although my case of blocked ears wasn’t due to allergies I did try using a decongestant nasal spray but to no avail. It’s good to hear though that you have found a way to keep it under control, thanks for commenting and all the best.

  3. Your website is hopefully relieve for me. After looking at the symptoms for blocked Eustachian tubes, I think this is what I have. I have been seeing an ENT on a regular basis, only for him to feed me full of steroids….which do work…and nothing else. I am getting so stressed out and literally ready for a breakdown because I just want my ears back. They have been this way from the middle of June 🙁 I do know that weather and pressure changes seem to affect it as well.

    • I’m sorry to hear of your issue with your ears and hope that you are able to find some helpful information on this site. Can I ask what symptoms you are experiencing? I have had troubles myself with blocked eustachian tubes and felt constant pressure in my head and wasn’t able to hear properly for months, So I have felt your frustration when the medical experts aren’t able to help. There is lots of information about eustachian tube dysfunction with potential remedies on this site, so I hope you can find something that helps. If you need any further information, relating to your problem, please don’t hesitate to ask and I will do my best to help.

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