Does your ear ever produce a clicking or popping noise that affects both your hearing and balance? While alarming, there are answers. This is a classic symptom of Eustachian tube dysfunction.
What Are Eustachian Tubes?
This small tube connects your ears to the back of your throat (known as the nasopharynx) and is responsible for draining fluids and controlling the pressure within the ear, ensuring it is equal to the pressure outside of the body.
For the most part, your Eustachian tubes remain closed, only opening to allow air to pass through while you are swallowing, chewing or yawning.
Problems arise when the tube cannot open or close properly. This is known as Eustachian tube dysfunction.
Causes and Symptoms
The most common cause of Eustachian tube dysfunction is inflammation of the Eustachian tube. When this happens, the tubes do not drain well, and they can become clogged and fill with mucus. Common causes include:
- Sinus infections
A change in altitude from flying, riding in a fast-moving elevator, driving over mountains or scuba diving can make it hard for your Eustachian tubes to regulate pressure.
In addition to the clicking or popping sensation, symptoms of Eustachian tube dysfunction include:
- Fullness or plugged up feeling in the ear
- Hearing loss
- Tickling feeling in the ears
- Ear pain
- Balance issues
Children are more likely to experience Eustachian tube dysfunction because their tubes are shorter and sit straighter than the tubes in the ears of adults. Those who are overweight or who smoke cigarettes are also more likely to experience an issue with their Eustachian tubes.
Most Eustachian tube dysfunction symptoms will resolve on their own without treatment. A simple exercise of yawning and swallowing can help, as can chewing gum. If your ear still feels full, try taking a deep breath, holding your nose closed with your fingers and blowing the air out of your mouth.
If you do not find relief, you should schedule an appointment with an ENT. In order to determine the cause of your ear clicks, your doctor will review your symptoms and examine your ears, throat and nasal passage.
Treatment options include:
- Decongestant to reduce swelling
- Antihistamine to reduce allergic reaction
- Balloon sinuplasty
- Ear tubes
- Surgery on the eardrum to remove fluid from the middle ear
To learn more about Eustachian tube dysfunction or to schedule an appointment with an ear, nose and throat professional, contact PDX ENT today.