Are your eustachian tubes functioning correctly? According to new research, the answer may be no, and that could pose a risk to your entire ear, nose and throat system. Here’s what you need to know about the Eustachian tube and eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD).
What is a eustachian tube
The ear, nose and throat region is made up of a complex system of structures that work together to regulate pressure, maintain balance, support the immune system and more. One of the structures in this system is the eustachian tube.
Each of us has two eustachian tubes, one located on each side of the face. These structures run from the middle ear, down to the back of the throat and help to regulate ear pressure and drain excess fluid from the ear. If you’ve ever yawned to open your eustachian tubes and “pop” your ears, you’re probably familiar with these essential little structures.
In most people, the eustachian tubes do their job seamlessly most of the time. This isn’t the case for everyone. Frequent ETD can happen, and according to the newest research, it can happen more often than previously believed.
Eustachian tube dysfunction
We’ve all experienced it. Some fullness of the ear during a cold or inability to pop our ears when allergies are getting the better of us, but for most people, this is an occasional annoyance. In others, this is a frequent frustration and one that could lead to more serious concerns.
According to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical AssociationOtolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the previous estimate of less than 1% of Americans having eustachian tube dysfunction may be low. The latest findings indicate that the number may be well over 4% or around 11 million people.
The team analyzed data from 9098 adults aged 20 years or older from 2001 to 2006 and 2009 to 2012 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They removed any individuals who had reported a cold, sinus issue or earache within 24 hours and those who had suffered from a head or chest cold within 30 days. The identification of ETD was done by tympanometry alone.
The risk of ETD
While ETD in many cases is simply a frustration, it can lead to more serious issues, even permanent damage such as hearing loss. If you’re experiencing symptoms such as these with no signs of clearing up (in adults, beyond two weeks, in children beyond a few days), contact your ear, nose and throat professional for diagnosis and treatment:
Full or plugged feeling in the ears
Tinnitus, popping sounds, buzzing or ringing in the ear
Pain around the ear
Depending on the cause of the ETD, your practitioner may recommend a safe home remedy, over-the-counter medication or even antibiotics. In more serious cases of eustachian tube dysfunction, especially in frequent cases, in-office procedures or surgery may be recommended.
If you or someone in your family is suffering from ETD, contact our office to schedule an appointment to identify and treat the problem.