The eustachian tubes are small passageways that connect the upper part of your throat (pharynx) to your middle ears. When you sneeze, swallow or yawn, your eustachian tubes open, allowing air to flow in and out. But sometimes a eustachian tube might get plugged. This is called eustachian tube dysfunction. When this happens, sounds may be muffled and your ear may feel full, or you may have ear pain.
The most common cause of Eustachian tube dysfunction is excessive mucus and inflammation of the tube caused by a cold, the flu, a sinus infection or allergies. In some instances, patients may have chronic Eustachian tube issues due to how the eustachian tubes anatomy and development.
Your doctor will be able to tell if you have Eustachian tube dysfunction by talking to you about your symptoms and by examining you. Your doctor will examine your ear canals and eardrums, and your nasal passages and the back of your throat.
Symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction usually go away without treatment. Eustachian tube exercises, such as swallowing, yawning or chewing gum, can help open the eustachian tubes. You can help relieve the "full ear" feeling by taking a deep breath and blowing with your mouth shut and your nostrils pinched closed.
If you think your baby may have eustachian tube dysfunction, give him or her a bottle or a pacifier to encourage the swallow reflex.
If these strategies do not help, your doctor may suggest other options. These can include: