What are the symptoms of Eustachian tube dysfunction?
For most people who experience Eustachian tube dysfunction, it settles by itself within a couple of weeks. This is especially true for children. But in some adults it seems to go on for a long time - many months. There are two types: short-term and long-term.
What is short-term Eustachian tube dysfunction?
- The main symptom is muffled or dulled hearing.
- You may also have ear pain that comes and goes because the eardrum is tensed and stretched.
- But Eustachian tube dysfunction doesn't cause constant ear pain. If your ear is hurting all the time, it may be another cause and you should see a doctor.
- Other symptoms that may also develop include a feeling of fullness in the ear, ringing or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus) and dizziness. But it is important to note that these other symptoms happen alongside muffled hearing. Eustachian tube dysfunction does not cause dizziness or tinnitus alone.
- One or both ears may be affected.
- Symptoms can last from a few hours to several weeks or more. It depends on the cause. In most cases due to a cold (the common cause) the symptoms are likely to go within a week or so.
- As symptoms are easing, you may have popping sensations or noises in the ear. Also, the dulled hearing may come and go for a short time before getting back to normal.
What is long-term (chronic) Eustachian tube dysfunction?
- Occasionally the feeling of muffled hearing and a fullness in the ear does not go away, even once the original cause (usually a bad cold) has gone away. If the feeling persists for six weeks, it is termed chronic Eustachian tube dysfunction.
- This is more common in adults than in children.
- This is quite a difficult condition to treat and often persists despite trying all the usual treatments.
- There doesn't seem to be a genetic cause of Eustachian tube dysfunction, nor does it run in families.
Further reading and references
Norman G, Llewellyn A, Harden M, et al; Systematic review of the limited evidence base for treatments of Eustachian tube dysfunction: a health technology assessment. Clin Otolaryngol. 2014 Feb39(1):6-21. doi: 10.1111/coa.12220.
Balloon dilatation of the Eustachian tube; NICE Interventional Procedure Guideline, November 2011
McDonald MH, Hoffman MR, Gentry LR, et al; New insights into mechanism of Eustachian tube ventilation based on cine computed tomography images. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2011 Nov 27.
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