What are the treatments available for eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD)?
Eustachian tube dysfunction is an extremely common problem. The eustachian tube connects the ear to the nose.
In children, these tubes are more horizontal and hence together with the narrowness of this area and enlarged adenoids are one of the reasons children get more ear infections and eustachian tube problems. Identifying what is causing the eustachian tube problems will lead you to the proper treatment for you.
Common reasons why the tube does not function well include congestion or swelling of this tube as a result of congestion of the nose and sinuses. The eustachian tube sits behind the sinus cavities and if there is congestion in this area- you may end up with congestion and dysfunction.
Young children generally have larger adenoids and this can sometimes swell up to congest the opening of the eustachian tubes. Some people also have very tight eustachian tubes as a result of the tightness of the muscles around this area.
Teeth grinding and dysfunction of the jaw joint has also been postulated to worsen the function of the eustachian tube. In terms of treatment; the first thing to do is to see your ENT doctor and get him to assess what's causing your ET dysfunction.
A nasoendscopy needs to be performed as occasionally one-sided ear blockage could be due to a growth blocking the ear tube on one side resulting in fluid in the middle ear and a blocked ear sensation. Having diagnosed the cause of your dysfunction- your doctor may politzerise or pop your ears for you.
Medications to reduce the congestion or the adenoid swelling may be prescribed.
Yawning, wriggling your jaw, the gentle popping of the ears may also help. If there is persistent dysfunction and especially if there is fluid in your middle ears; sometimes a small procedure to drain the liquid and even put in a ventilation tube may be required.
We also have balloons now which can reduce the congestion of the eustachian tubes. The eustachian tuboplasty is a surgical procedure where a balloon is inserted into the eustachian tube opening and dilated to open the eustachian tube. If there is significant nasal or sinus congestion; sometimes doing surgery to reduce this congestion may help the eustachian tube dysfunction.
Dr Adrian Saurajen
MBBS (U of Sydney, Australia), FRCS (ENT) (RCS, Edinburgh, United Kingdom), FRCS (RCPS, Glasgow, United Kingdom), FAMS (Academy of Medicine, Singapore), M Med (Sleep Medicine) (U of Sydney, Australia)