Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (Eustachian is pronounced “you-station”) is the most common cause for ears to feel clogged or plugged. The Eustachian tube serves to protect, ventilate and drain the middle ear when there is a need to balance air pressure on either side of the eardrum. The Eustachian Tube connects the back of the nose to the middle ear. It is normally closed; however, it opens when we swallow, chew or yawn.
When something keeps the Eustachian Tube from opening and closing it is referred to as Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD). ETD symptoms may include a pressure or fullness in the ear, muffled and distorted hearing, as well as a difference in air pressure between the middle ear space and ear canal which can result in discomfort.
What causes “plugged ears”?
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction has many causes, but the most common culprits are earwax, congestion from a cold, allergies, sinusitis, ear infection, enlarged adenoids, TMJ (Temporal Mandibular Joint) Syndrome, or even a change in altitude when flying or driving high in the mountains.
Plugged ears: symptoms and remedies
ETD symptoms include discomfort, muffled hearing, aural fullness and/or pressure. To open up the Eustachian Tube, you can try: chewing gum, yawning, the Valsalva Maneuver (pinching the nose shut, closing the mouth and gently blowing) and the Toynbee Maneuver (pinch the nose shut and swallow). The purpose of these methods is to allow air pressure to equalize on both sides of the eardrum. You’ll know you've been successful in opening the Eustachian tubes if you experience a popping noise or sensation.
You should see a physician if the ETD persists for days and/or other symptoms are present. Changes in hearing, ear drainage, fever, pain, dizziness, tinnitus or vertigo are all symptoms that require medical attention. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical evaluation and treatment as soon as possible.
For more information about issues related to hearing, consult a hearing professional. To find one in your area call 1-855-970-2990 or click here.