Otolaryngologists at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital provide comprehensive and innovative medical and surgical services for patients with eustachian tube disorders.
The eustachian tube is a small canal that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and upper throat. It serves as a mechanism to equalize air pressure in the middle ear with outside pressure. Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD) occurs when the tube fails to open (stuck closed) during swallowing or yawning resulting in a difference between the air pressure inside and outside the middle ear. This condition, mostly commonly seen in young children, can cause ear pain and sometimes difficulty hearing.
Causes of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
The most common cause is an infection of the nose such as a cold or sinusitis
Enlarged adenoids and tonsils, especially in children
Smoking and pollution
Nose polyps or nasal tumors
Symptoms of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
Pulling or tugging on the ear (for young children especially)
Discomfort or pain in the ear
Ears feel full or clogged
Ringing or popping noises in the ears
Dizziness or a sensation of spinning known as vertigo
Symptoms that cannot be relieved by swallowing, yawning, or chewing
Medical Treatment for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
Nasal or oral decongestants
Nasal steroids to relieve nasal congestion and enable the eustachian tube to open
Pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
Surgical Treatment for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
If medical treatment fails or symptoms recur, surgery of the eustachian tube may be indicated.
Placement of a pressure equalization tube (PET) in the eardrum (myringotomy and PET placement).
Balloon eustachian tuboplasty: a new minimally invasive treatment option for eustachian tube dysfunction which consist of dilating the eustachian tube with a pressure filled balloon.
Patulous or patent eustachian tube dysfunction occurs when the tube fails to close and remains open (stuck open or patulous). The open eustachian tube allows sounds to be transmitted directly to the middle ear, for example, patients experience autophony (the hearing of self-generated sounds including one’s own breathing, voice, or heartbeat).
Causes of Patulous Eustachian
Sudden and fast weight loss: fatty tissues surrounding the eustachian tube help maintain the tube closed. When a dramatic weight loss occurs, these surrounding fatty tissues shrink, disrupting tube function.
Dehydration from vigorous exercising, reducing the water content of the fatty tissues surrounding the eustachian tube.
Pregnancy: hormonal changes may cause patulous eustachian tube
Hormonal therapy in general
Radiation therapy to or adjacent to the eustachian tube
You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have eustachian tube dysfunction and determine what course of treatment is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced otolaryngologist are important to the successful outcome for patients with ear, nose and throat disorders and conditions.
If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.
The day of surgery, you will be taken care of in the operating room by otolaryngologist, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in surgery for patients with eustachian tube dysfunction. After surgery, you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by experienced surgical and nursing staff.
Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital provides a multidisciplinary approach to patient care by collaborating with colleagues who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating ear, nose and throat disorders and conditions. In addition, patients have full access to Brigham and Women's Hospital's world-renowned academic medical community, with its diverse specialists, and state-of-the-art facilities.