Natural Treatments for Blockage of the Eustachian Tube

 

Everyone has experienced the sensation of pressure in the ears at least once in their lifetime. This is usually an uncomfortable feeling of having one or both ears clogged. It is usually as a result of issues with the Eustachian tubes. One of the most common reasons why this happens is a change of altitude. There are countless other reasons why this happens, as well as a myriad of treatment options available in the market today.

The eustachian tubes, one in each side of the ear, connect the middle ear to the back of the throat and nose. The core function of Eustachian tubes is to ensure that the pressure in the ear and that of the atmosphere are as similar as possible. The secondary function of the tubes is to drain fluids, secretions, debris and infections away from the middle ear. If any of these functions are not carried out as it ought to be, dysfunction occurs. This dysfunction, at worst, can lead to hearing loss, and at best, leads to ear pain and unusual sensations in the ear.

There are muscles in the back of the palate and throat that control how these tubes open and close. Normal bodily functions such as yawning or swallowing cause contractions to these muscles, which trigger the appropriate response. 

Normally, the eustachian tubes’ nasal openings are closed. This is so that inadvertent contamination from normal secretion doesn’t happen in the middle ear. There is a rare condition whereby the tubes are always open which leads to endless infections in the middle ear. A more common issue is partial or completely blocked eustachian tubes which do not adequately regulate air pressure. Such issues manifest as an itch or tickling sensation in the ear and can advance to severe ear pain if not checked. Issues associated with air pressure difference are very common in situations such as flying especially during takeoff and landing.

Blocked Eustachian Tubes

There are different causes of blockage in the eustachian tubes. There are different factors that expose some groups of individuals to irritants, which contribute heavily to Eustachian tubes dysfunction. Some of these factors include triggers from allergens. Here are some of the most common causes of blockage in the eustachian tubes.

• Swelling from allergies or sinus infection causing a collection of fluid in the inner ear

• Upper respiratory infection

• Changes in altitude – on a plane, hiking up mountains, scuba diving

• Ear infections are more prevalent in children

• Masses or tumours in the nasopharynx or skull base – although rare, it happens

• Rarely from conditions such as temporomandibular joint disorders, acoustic neuroma, cholesteatoma, fungal ear infections and Meniere’s disease among others

• A foreign object or wax buildup

• Naturally small eustachian tubes as in conditions such as Downs Syndrome, especially in children

• Smoking which damages the cilia that sweep the debris and mucus from the middle ear

If there is fluid is trapped in the middle ear, it can lead to acute otitis media, which is an ear infection that can result in eustachian dysfunction. It is important to note that younger children are particularly prone to this dysfunction as they get infections easily. Additionally, their tubes are shorter and narrower, hence easily blocked compared to adults.

A ruptured eardrum can also cause chronic blockage of the eustachian tubes. The eardrum is a thin tissue that separates the middle ear and the inner ear. Several factors such as foreign objects in the ear, infections and stress from air pressure difference can cause the rapture. If you are having a ringing in the ears (tinnitus), a dizzy or spinning sensation, drainage from the ear (clear or bloody or with pus), or pain that quickly comes and goes, you need to see a doctor. One of the common options is zinc and tinnitus as zinc alleviates the ringing. This is because these signs can indicate a ruptured eardrum. 

How Do You Know You Know You Have Eustachian Dysfunction?

There are several symptoms that are associated with blocked eustachian tubes. The most common symptoms include the following.

• A feeling of fullness or hurt in the ears’

• Feeling like the ears are filled with water

• Popping or ringing noises

• A feeling of dizziness or loss of balance

• Difficulty in perceiving sounds or perceiving muffled sounds

• A tingling or tickling sensation

The severity and length of the symptoms often depend on the cause. For example, if you experience eustachian dysfunction as a result of a change in altitude, the middle ear easily returns to its normal function once the body adjusts to the pressure. If the symptom is as a result of something more severe, and they won’t go away even after a few days up to two weeks, it is best to see a doctor. If your child complains of any of these symptoms, it is advisable that you take her/him to ENT specialist immediately as it could be a sign of ear infection.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is advisable to see ENT specialist as soon as is possible. Your doctor may ask general and specific questions about your symptoms. Some tests may be carried out, starting with a physical check into the ears. Sometimes you may have your doctor carry out a hearing test depending on the responses you provide.

Sinusitis and Hearing Loss

Sinuses are hollow cavities or sacs around organs or tissue. In this case, sinus refers to a system of hollow cavities around the nose in the cranial bone, usually referred to as paranasal sinuses. There are four paired cavities in the cranial bone; the frontal sinus, the sphenoid sinus, the ethmoid sinus and the maxillary sinus. These cavities are empty, except for the thin layer mucosa tissue lining. The sinus drains into the nose through the middle meatus, which is a small channel or drainage passway.

What Is Sinusitis?

Every once-in-a-while, these cavities become inflamed due to a variety of irritants. This inflammation is called sinusitis. This inflammation can affect one or more pairs of sinuses and can cause increased internal pressure. This pressure can be felt in several areas such as around the cheeks, ears, eyes, nose and even one side of the head. This inflammation can also be characterized by severe headaches. 

Sinusitis is often classified into large groups based on their causes. Their treatment is also based on the causative agent. Here is a quick look at the most common sinus conditions. 

• Acute sinusitis, also called sinus infection, is caused by fungal, bacterial or viral infections affecting the sinus cavity thereby causing inflammation. The consequences of this infection are nasal congestion, discomfort in the cheeks, around the eyes and forehead as well as headaches – cold-like symptoms. This condition starts suddenly and may last up to 4 weeks.

• Chronic sinusitis, which is also referred to as chronic rhinitis, is caused by inflammation of the sinus. It is pretty persistent, characterized by a series of infections and persistent inflammation, and can last up to 12 weeks.

• Sub-acute sinusitis is characterized by inflammation and can last up to 12 weeks as well. Some people have this condition for about 4 weeks, but it can last longer.

• Hay fever is a sinus condition that is caused by allergens such as dust mites, pollen etc. When the body activates defence to remove allergins, the sinus over-acts. This results in excess mucus production, sneezing, nasal stuffiness as well as itching.

If you notice any flu-like symptoms that won’t go away in a day or two, you may need to visit your doctor. The doctor will talk to you and ask a few questions after which he may perform a physical exam to establish the cause of the problem. The physical tests may include looking inside the nose with a lighted view to see whether there is any swelling. Additionally, the doctor may tap or press a few places to check for any painful areas. Other sinusitis tests include the following.

• CT scan (computed tomography scan) which gives detailed images of sinus which help in making a diagnosis

• MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses magnetic waves to create detailed sinuses images which are helpful in diagnostics

• Rhinoscopy or endoscopy is a process where doctors insert a camera inside the nose to see the condition of the sinuses

Sinus cultures involve taking a sample of the mucus from the sinus and subjecting it to cultured tests so as to come up with a diagnosis

There are other tests such as skin allergy tests that help determine the causes of the sinusitis. Depending on the doctor’s recommendation, you may have to take one or two tests to accurately diagnose the issue. Once the diagnosis has been done, the doctor recommends the appropriate treatment. Some of the treatment options for sinusitis include the following.

• Antibiotics for bacterial infections

• Antihistamines for sinusitis caused by allergenic reactions

• Decongestants for issues caused by postnasal drip, sinus congestions and mucosal blockage

• Nasal steroid spray eases tissue swelling as well as prevents the regrowth of polyps after a sinus surgery

• Nasal saline spray, which is a saltwater spray, helps break up the dried mucus in the nasal cavity, which helps eliminate blockage and keeps the nose moist

• The nasal wash cleans out the mucus in the nasal cavities 

• Sinus surgery is used to remove growths in the cavities as well as open up acute blockages

In most cases, these treatment options work well, in addition to lifestyle changes that your doctor may prescribe. Additionally, staying away from known triggers is essential in keeping sinusitis at bay in the long run. Be sure to steer clear of issues such as dental infections especially those resulting from poor hygiene and bad foods, as well as avoid irritants such as cigarette smoke and pollen/dust. If sinusitis is left untreated, it can lead to blockage of the eustachian tubes, which can consequently lead to hearing impairment.

Otitis Media

This is a general term that is used to refer to infections of the ear caused by an accumulation of fluid in the middle ear. This condition is most prevalent in children as their eustachian tubes are narrower and shorter, and their immunity is lower. This can easily cause blockage and consequently accumulation of fluids. Almost all children have at least one bout of otitis media before they are 6 years of age. There are three main types of otitis media.

• AOM – Acute Otitis Media which is an abrupt ear infection that is characterized by swelling and redness. In this condition, the fluid trapped in the ear causes ear pain, fever and even hearing loss

• OME - Otitis Media with Effusion is a condition whereby fluid keeps on accumulation even after the initial bout has been treated. These fluids and mucous cause a fullness feeling in the ear and can easily cause hearing loss.

• COME – Chronic Otitis Media with Effusion is a condition that keeps recurring. Alternatively, COME is characterized by a prolonged accumulation of fluids even without an infection. This fluid accumulation makes it hard to fight ear infections and can ultimately cause hearing loss.

Otitis media is usually characterized by fever, loss of balance, ear pain and fluid draining out of the ears. Usually, the child may tag or pull at both ears, may be easily and unusually irritable and may have difficulty sleeping.

Serous Otitis Media 

There are many terms that are used to refer to this condition. If you hear such terms as otitis media with effusion, middle ear effusion, fluid in the ear or secretory otitis media, they are all referring to serous otitis media. This simply means that there’s fluid in the ear.

Serous is the term that specifies the type of fluid that is trapped in the middle ear. This fluid is yellowish or straw coloured and consists mostly of mucus. This fluid is trapped in the middle ear if the eustachian tubes responsible for its drainage are blocked or unable to function as they should.

Apart from the fact that children are at greater risk of otitis media due to the ease of Eustachian tubes dysfunction, there is a myriad of risks that are associated with fluid accumulation in the ear. Some of the disorders that a child is born with such as downs syndrome, cleft palate and facial bone abnormally have been known to exacerbate the condition.

Other risk factors include environmental conditions and common illnesses. Such illnesses as colds and allergens can trigger and worsen this condition. Enlarged adenoids have also been reported as among the causes of auditory tubes. Pay attention to your child, and if you notice sudden changes in sleeping habits or actions such as pulling ears, you may need to visit your ENT specialist.

Serous Otitis Media Diagnosis and Treatment

There are two methods that are used to diagnose serous otitis media; pneumatic otoscopy or tympanometry. Pneumatic otoscopy involves the use of an otoscope that has an attached bulb syringe. The otoscope allows your doctor to evaluate the eardrum’s reaction to pressure when the syringe is squeezed. The colour changes of the eardrum during observation are also indicative of the fluid trapped behind it. 

Tympanometry tests measure how the eardrum responds to sound waves. The tests will show whether or not there is fluid in the ear as trapped fluid affects the eardrum’s ability to perceive sounds. While this method is good at telling whether there is fluid in the ear or not, it is not the most accurate method of diagnosing serous otitis media.

Serous otitis media usually goes away even without any intervention. However, if the condition persists past a few weeks, it is advisable to go for tests. If the case is serious, the doctor can surgically drain the trapped fluid through a tube. If there is adenoid blocking the auditory tubes, an adenoidectomy may be performed before the ear tubes are surgically inserted.

Acute Otitis Media (Infection)

It is common to see cases of fluid trapped in the ear. In some cases, the fluid trapped does not have or cause an infection. However, if this fluid is trapped in the ear too long and collects bacteria and fungi, it results in an infection namely acute otitis media. This ear infection is often characterized by inflammation.

When it occurs in babies and young children, acute otitis media causes intense crying and fussiness in infants, ear clutching and wincing in toddlers and ear pain in children who can speak. Other symptoms of this condition include neck pain, headaches, hearing and balance loss, fever, irritability, vomiting and a feeling of fullness in the ear. In some cases, you will find that there is fluid draining from the ear.

Acute otitis media is diagnosed through the same tests as serous otitis media. Additionally, AOM can be diagnosed through reflectometry especially in young children. This is the use of a small device that makes sounds near the ear and measures the sound’s reflection. The resultant reflection tells the doctor whether there is fluid trapped in the ear or not. This, accompanied by other symptoms, can point to the presence or absence of AOM.

Quick Home Remedies for Acute Otitis Media

A high percentage of AOM cases go away even without medication; the only recommendation is usually pain medication to manage the symptoms. Additionally, the doctor may recommend a variety of home remedies. The only time the doctor recommends antibiotics is when home remedies have been exhausted without improvement.

The most common suggestion when it comes to managing acute otitis media is placing a warm, damp washcloth over an infected ear and holding on for a short while. This can be done in addition to using over the counter ear drops and/or other painkillers such as ibuprofen. If the symptoms do not subside in a few days of consistent home care, the doctor can prescribe antibiotics.

If the infection does not respond to home remedies and antibiotics, the doctor can recommend surgery. These surgical options include adenoid removal and ear tubes. If the infections keep recurring, prompt treatment is of the essence. This is because recurring AOM can cause speech delays in young children, a ruptured eardrum, and growth in the ears as well as enlarged tonsillitis.

Natural Treatments for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

In most cases, blocked eustachian tubes are harmless. However, they can be pretty uncomfortable, and if left unchecked, can lead to serious infections. If you do experience temporary ear clogging due to simple things such as a change in altitude, there are quick steps you can take to clear off the cloggy feeling. Here are some quick remedies that you can try at home.

• The Valsalva manoeuvre which involves “popping” the ears. In this manoeuvre, hold your nose and close your mouth, then “blow” your nose with slight to moderate force. This puffs up the cheeks and “pops” the ears. This is a simple trick that should work when experiencing a temporary blockage feeling. If this doesn’t work for you immediately, it is advisable not to keep trying. This is because you can easily interfere with the eardrum.

Curcumin used for middle ear infection has an anti-inflammatory effect on acute otitis media

• Hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol and warm water make the perfect eardrop solution! Test the water with the back of your hand to ensure that the temperature is okay. Make sure the three ingredients are well mixed and then use a dropper to put one or two drops into the ear, hold for up to 15 seconds. Repeat this once or twice daily until you feel a difference. It is important to consult your doctor about this before you start using it.

Dietary elements such as vitamin C, mullein garlic, quercetin in onions and bromelain among others have been said to help with eustachian dysfunction. These elements can be taken in their food form or in supplement form. It is advisable to seek your doctor’s opinion before you take these supplements. The doctor will determine the extent of the dysfunction and suggest the appropriate dosage.

Quercetin as Treatment for Eustachian Tubes Dysfunction

Quercetin is a plant pigment that is popularly known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the human body. It is found in a wide range of plants and foods such as onions, berries, red wine, apples, green tea etc. Buckwheat tea is one of the plants known around the world to contain a large amount of this wonder pigment quercetin. It is no wonder that this pigment and the foods in which it is contained have been used as medicine over time, for a myriad of issues. Some of these issues that are easily solved by quercetin include heart issues, blood vessels issues, bladder infections, arthritis and diabetes among others. Though generations have used this pigment for ages as medicine, formal comprehensive research is yet to be done to support these benefits.

Quercetin is also used as anti-histamine. It stops the body from being overly sensitive to allergens. This occurs when quercetin stabilizes the mast cells that are responsible for histamine release. This property makes it vital in the cure for sinus issues, which directly cause eustachian dysfunction.

A general oral dose of 400 to 500mg taken twice daily is recommended. Water-soluble chalcone is needed in smaller doses, about 250mg twice daily. Keep in mind that oral quercetin can cause tingling in limbs and a slight headache. Overdosing on quercetin can cause severe damage to the kidneys. As such, anyone who has kidney issues may have it worse if these supplements are taken. Therefore, before you self-prescribe any quercetin supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor.

Bromelain as Treatment for Eustachian Tubes Dysfunction

One of the most popular mucoactive and anti-inflammatory substances today is bromelain. Being a proteolytic complex enzyme in addition to these properties, bromelain is commonly used on sinusitis. This enzyme is today used on a range of respiratory tract diseases. Additionally, its proteolytic action on inflammatory regions of the tissues inhibits the synthesis of inflammatory agents in the body.

You can ingest bromelain through pineapples or as a supplement. When taken as a supplement, recommended daily doses range from 500mg to 1000 mg. It is not uncommon to see up to 2000mg of bromelain used by a person in a day.

Bromelain is very vital in the absorption of quercetin. It is also an active agent against allergenic protein complexes in the body. A German clinical study conducted in 2015 found out that children with acute sinusitis recovered a lot faster, statistically, when on bromelain supplements. 

Apart from relieving sinusitis, bromelain is also used to improve osteoarthritis symptoms, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, it is used as an anti-cancer treatment, immune booster and it also helps in relieving stomach upsets. 

Mullein Garlic as Treatment for Eustachian Tubes Dysfunction

Despite the fact that there are no formal research studies conducted to ascertain the extent of properties of mullein, it is one of those plants that have been used for its medicinal benefits across centuries. For starters, it is quite effective in managing TB symptoms, coughs, asthma and a range of respiratory issues It is also quite popular in treating burns, haemorrhoids, bruises as well as gout. The oil derived from the mullein plant is used to effectively address earache.

Mullein is known to have expectorants or demulcents. These are compounds that calm inflammation and irritations in the internal parts of the mouth, throat and nose as well as on the skin. Expectorants are known to stimulate phlegm secretion. Mullein garlic oil is commonly used as ear drops.

Mullein and garlic have natural antibacterial properties. According to research conducted and results published in 2002, mullein killed Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. These antibacterial properties make it effective in fighting bacterial infections as well as other issues related to the respiratory tract.

A study conducted in 2003 on 171 children diagnosed with ear pain revealed that the group that used mullein garlic ear drops (in combination with St. John’s wort, olive oil, Calendula, Vitamin E and lavender) statistically had higher improvement rates in three days. These mullein garlic eardrops were proven more effective compared to regular eardrops and amoxicillin combination. 

You can make mullein garlic drops at home. Simply steep garlic in olive oil and add mullein. Let the mixture sit in low heat until it becomes fragrant – avoid using high heat. Strain the oil into a container and let it cool. Use two to three drops in your ear with a dropper, the sore ear facing upwards. Hold the position for about 10 seconds then go on with your business. Store the rest of the oil in a glass jar in the refrigerator and use as is required. This helps keep the oil fresh – yes, it can go bad.

Stinging Nettle as Treatment for Eustachian Tubes Dysfunction

Stinging nettle is one of the world’s most popular wonder plants. It has been used over the years to treat a myriad of issues. Its use dates back to the ancient Greek times when it was used as a joint pain reliever and diuretic. 

Stinging nettle stings! The leaves and stem have soft hairs that contain irritants which are released when in contact with the skin. This can be pretty painful; a sensation that can last even a few hours depending on how the body reacts to the chemical irritant. 

The leaves and stem are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which have made them effective in treating muscle and joint pains, arthritis, eczema, gout as well as a range of respiratory tract infections. The roots are used to treat urinary tract issues which help the flow of urine as well as alleviate benign prostatic hyperplasia symptoms.

Stinging nettle is used to alleviate itching and sneezing caused by hay fever. This is because it is known to have properties that inhibit the release of histamine from the body’s mast cells. Histamine is used in response to allergens. A high amount of histamine increases the body’s sensitivity to allergens, thereby making the situation even worse and more painful. This is especially helpful in preventing blockage of Eustachian tubes caused by allergens and inflammation. Stinging nettle is used for other countless health benefits.

It is available in the form of dried leaves powder, tablets, capsules and root tinctures. You can also find topical creams and ointments. It is also common to see people taking stinging nettle tea. This is a drink made from steeping the nettle’s leaves in hot water for a few minutes.

Parting Shot

There are countless natural, homemade solutions for blocked eustachian tubes. These solutions help relieve ear pressure, inflammation, discomfort and pain. Other options include apple cider vinegar, oil pulling, hydrotherapy, peppermint oil, menthol vapour rub, and cayenne gargle as well as steam tents. You will also realize that choosing a healthy lifestyle and diet helps relieve a lot of ailments. Always talk to your doctor before you decide on any natural remedy for your ear issues.



Blockage of the Eustachian tube

Like all other body organs, the ear is made up of varying components and plays more than one role in the body. Not only is the ear responsible for perceiving and interpreting external sounds, but it is also vital in body balance. Yes, you walk without falling because the ear helps in keeping you balanced.

The ear is comprised of three parts: the inner, middle and outer ear. These parts are further comprised of a myriad of other smaller parts that help the ear to perform its functions.

The inner ear comprises of the following;

• The cochlea which has the hearing nerves

• The vestibule and semicircular canals which has balance receptors 

The middle ear comprises of the following;

• The ossicles which are three connected bones namely malleus, stapes and incus that transmit sound waves to the inner ear

• The Eustachian tube is a canal that links the back of the nose to the middle ear. Its work is to help equalize pressure in the middle ear for proper transfer of sound waves. It is also the canal through which fluids drains off from the middle ear.

The outer ear consists of the following;

• The auricle or pinna which is the visible, external part of the ear

• The auditory tube which connects the outer ear to the middle ear

• The tympanic membrane which is also called the eardrum, separates the outer ear from the middle ear

Each of these parts ought to be in top shape in order to function as is required. If any part of the ear is affected by any element, there arises a myriad of issues. Every once-in-a-while, the components of the ear can be affected. While most of these issues are temporary, there are times that medical attention is needed to avert serious issues such as hearing loss.

The Eustachian Tubes

These small tubes run from the middle ear to the upper throat. These canals are responsible for equalizing air pressure between the middle ear and the atmospheric pressure and draining substances from the middle ear. These tubes are located behind the eardrum. Normally, they remain closed, and only open when yawning, swallowing or chewing.

The eustachian tubes are pretty small. This means that they are prone to get clogged for various reasons. When the eustachian tubes are blocked, the results can be ear pain, hearing issues and a fullness feeling in the ear. This blockage is often referred to as eustachian tube dysfunction.

Eustachian tube dysfunction is pretty common, and most often the symptoms are temporary. Depending on the cause of the dysfunction, it can clear by itself, require simple home remedies or need urgent medical attention.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Eustachian tube blockage is a pretty common occurrence. Almost all adults have experienced ETD at some point in their life, and most of these times, the blockage has cleared by itself. Here are some of the most common causes of blockage in eustachian tubes.

• Change in altitude such as when travelling on a plane, hiking, riding an elevator, scuba diving etc. can cause a clogged feeling in the ears, but it clears up once the body adjusts to the new altitudes

• Upper respiratory infections such as common colds which cause inflammation on the lining of the eustachian tubes causing narrowing or blockage

• Sinus infections cause irritation to the tissues in the eustachian tubes, and can also lead to infection. Sinusitis causes a stuffy nose, which in turn causes stuffy ears due to ETD

• Allergic reactions to common irritants such as cigarette smoke, animal hair, pollen, chemicals and other allergenic substances can cause inflammation of the delicate eustachian tubes

• Presence of destructive bacteria, viruses and fungi in the adenoid tissue causes recurrent infections in the ear. Infected adenoids become enlarged, which in turn block the eustachian tubes. This is the most common cause of chronic otitis media, especially in children

• Presence of masses in the tubes or in the skull base can cause a blockage. Such masses can include nasal polyps, foreign materials or tumours. Though masses and tumours can cause serious problems, they rarely occur.

• Damaged cilia can cause eustachian tube dysfunction. Cilia are responsible for sweeping off all unwanted substances from the middle ear and dispelling out of the system. If the cilia are damaged, these substances are trapped in the middle ear, which causes infection and subsequent blockage of the eustachian tubes. Smoking has been identified as one of the most common causes of cilia damage.

There are endless reasons why eustachian tubes get blocked. While some causes are only temporary and can be quickly resolved in minutes, other causes can lead to severe ear infection and even require surgery! 

If you experience the feeling of clogged ears or muffled sounds, especially with a change of altitude, there is a simple trick you can do to equalize the pressure in your ears. Simply yawn or swallow something to open up the eustachian tubes. If that doesn’t work, breath in deeply, close your mouth, hold your nose and “blow” the nose. You may hear a “pop” sound. This forcibly opens the eustachian tubes. If this doesn’t work in the first attempt, do not repeat the exercise. This is because the exercise can easily rapture the eardrum. Just let the body naturally adjust to the new altitudes by itself.

Eustachian Tube Obstruction in Children

Eustachian tube obstruction is more common in children than adults. This is because the tubes are narrower and shorter compared to those of adults, and are more sensitive and prone to irritations and inflammation. Just like ETD in adults, this obstruction can cause serious discomfort and pain in children.

Non-verbal children might show this discomfort in the form of pulling or tagging at ears. These babies might cry more often than they usually do, or seem more irritable than is common to them. They may also experience a lot of trouble sleeping or have interrupted sleep.

A verbal child may complain of pain in the ear, a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear as well as dizziness. You may also hear the child complain of hearing muffled sounds instead of the clear sounds they are used to. In some cases, children have reported a ringing or humming sound in the ears. 

Advanced symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction in children can also include redness of the ear or visible swelling. Other symptoms may be the presence of foul-smelling liquid coming out of the ears. Fever is also a pretty common indicator that the child is not well. Remember to use a digital thermometer as opposed to a mercury thermometer when taking a child’s temperature. This makes reading easier and more accurate.

It is important to note that obstruction or dysfunction in children can easily turn into an ear infection. Therefore, if you notice these symptoms in younger children or if the child makes the aforementioned complaints, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and make the appropriate recommendations.

Homecare Tips to Prevent Eustachian Tube Obstruction in Children

Children are very prone to this obstruction owing to their anatomy and sensitive immunity. As such, you have a responsibility to ensure that you avoid anything that can cause this obstruction. Here are a few things you can do to keep your child safe from eustachian tube dysfunction.

• Always keep the baby’s head elevated when feeding, especially through a bottle. This helps prevent any of the bottle contents flowing into the eustachian tubes

• Always keep the child’s ear canals dry. If the child will be playing in the water, taking a bath or swimming, you can have the child wear earplugs

• Try to keep the child away from common nasal irritants such as smoke, chemicals, animal hair etc.

• If you have a verbal child, teach them to swallow or yawn when they feel a muffled sound as this helps to equalize pressure and open the tubes

• When air-travelling with small children, the difference in altitude especially during takeoff and landing can be particularly uncomfortable. During these times, try to feed the child. This makes the child swallow, which helps equalize the air pressure and opens the tubes

Just as it is not advisable for adults to air-travel when suffering from sinusitis, it is not advisable to do the same for children with active ear troubles. Always seek doctor’s recommendation before travelling, especially with children who may not be medically fit.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction Diagnosis

If you notice persistence in the aforementioned symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention. Once at the doctor’s office, you may have to answer a few questions regarding your symptoms. According to the answers you give, the doctor can decide which method of further diagnosis is needed. The main diagnosis options include the following.

• Physical tests which mainly involves looking into the ear with a lighted gadget. The doctor examines the appearance of the canal and the inner ear. The colour and appearance of the eardrum can be an indication of trapped fluids inside the ear.

• If a further observation is required, the doctor might conduct a rhinoscopy. This is inserting a lighter camera with a flexible cord through the ear. The footage reveals what the situation is inside the ear where a physical exam cannot reach.

• Severe dysfunction, especially if caused by sinonasal disease, may require imaging tests. These normally include CT scans or MRIs. These imaging tests show the condition of all sinuses and the resulting issues that may be causing blockage in the inner ear.

Once the real causes of the blockage are identified, it is easy to treat the dysfunction. 

Treatment Options Blocked Eustachian Tubes

In most cases, ETD needs management of the symptoms until it clears. This can include simple home remedies such as using a warm cloth on the affected ear or taking painkillers and antihistamines. There are varied remedies that your doctor can recommend. Some of the most common quick remedies for ETD include the following.

• Treating the cause of the symptoms of ETD is one of the most effective remedies. For example, if the issue is rhinosinusitis, treating the stuffy nose will automatically alleviate the blockage. 

• Equalizing pressure through the simple Valsalva manoeuvre. This is a simple move that involves pinching the nose, closing the mouth and ‘blowing’ the nose forcefully. This manoeuvre forces the tubes to open up especially if the blockage is caused by a change in altitude.

• Allergy testing and treatment is an important remedy for eustachian tube dysfunction. There are many reported cases of ETD that are caused by allergic reactions to irritants. Once the allergy tests have been done and common allergens identified, the doctor can introduce immunotherapy, which helps get rid of chronic allergies.

• The doctor may recommend decongestants, which open up the tubes and reduce swelling and inflammation especially if suffering from a stuffy nose. Turmeric can be used as a decongestant if you do not want to use over the counter medications. The doctor can prescribe over the counter medication and eardrops, sprays and antihistamines, all of which are meant to reduce inflammation.

• Ballooning is a method used to relieve chronic eustachian tube dysfunction. This is a process that involves inserting a tiny, balloon-like device into the affected tube, which opens up the blocked tube. It is said to be one of the most effective ETD relief options.

• Intranasal steroids help reduce inflammation in the eustachian tubes, thereby unblocking them. Once open, the tubes can drain the substances trapped in the middle ear, thereby alleviating the risk of ear infection. It is important to note that these steroids should never be part of a long term ETD treatment regimen. The doctor can recommend this as a one-time treatment option depending on the severity of the infection, after which, other options are recommended.

• Myringotomy simply refers to ear tube replacement. When fluid and other unwanted substances are trapped in the middle ear, it can spell serious problems. As such, an ENT surgery can be performed where a small incision is made on the eardrum. A tube is then placed in this incision to help drain the substances from the middle ear. As the eardrum heals, the tubes fall out naturally. This is recommended as one of the last results if other options fail and the ear is at risk of serious infections. This is because it is best to avoid surgical treatment if other options can be as effective.

Remember

In most cases, ETD clears on its own. However, if you have any symptoms for more than a few days, it is important to see a doctor. There are countless natural remedies; ginger, basil, and cayenne pepper are helpful in thinning mucus and help to simulate the sinuses which helps unblock eustachian tubes. There are different treatment options for eustachian tube dysfunction depending on severity. Your doctor will always be in a position to answer any questions you may have and make the appropriate recommendations.



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