Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (blocked ears) and Sinus
Infection are closely related as the causes for both conditions are
What are Eustachian tubes?
The eustachian tube is a small tube-like canal which connects the inner part of the ear called
middle ear to the back of the nose and upper throat. Its function is to equalize the air pressure within the middle
ear and the pressure outside it.
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction and Sinus Infection
Sinus infection and eustachian tube dysfunction are related in that sinus infection is one cause
of ETD (Eustachian Tube Dysfunction).
Along with allergies, bad colds and several other types of upper respiratory infection, sinus
infection and ear infection are among the main contributing factors towards developing Eustachian Tube
What happens in sinus infection and Eustachian Tube Dysfunction is that an infection of the
sinuses -ethmoid, frontal or sphenoid sinus infections-spreads to the Eustachian tube, thus affecting the tube’s
ability to function normally. The chief symptom would be a blocked ear(s).
ETD refers to the dysfunction that happens when the Eustachian tube fails to open whilst yawning
or swallowing. These actions usually equalize the difference in air pressure inside and outside of the middle
Risk Factors toward Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
The following are risk factors that increase the chances of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction:
Sinus infection and ear infection.
Upper respiratory infection, cold or chronic allergies.
A narrow eustachian tube.
Tumors in the nasopharynx obstructing the airway.
Activities such as scuba diving and flying, or any rapid change in altitude / air pressure.
Another factor for children is that because they have narrower eustachian tubes they have an
increased chance of developing sinus infection and eustachian tube dysfunction. See a doctor as soon as you
discover symptoms of ETD in order to prevent a more serious infection of the inner ear.
Symptoms of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
Pain or general discomfort in the ear.
A feeling of clogged or fullness in the ear.
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Increased pain if tube blockage is the result of localized infection.
Symptoms are not relieved by yawning, swallowing or chewing.
When visiting a doctor for sinus infection and Eustachian Tube Dysfunction he or she will ask
you about your medical history and perform an examination. The doctor will inspect your ear using an otoscope,
looking for any bulges in the way of the ear drum. Both outward and inward tending bulges indicate inflammation and
In more severe cases you may be referred to an otolaryngologist (ENT specialist). There are a
few medical tests that are commonly performed to help diagnose sinus infection and Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.
An audiogram may be used to measure hearing. A tympanogram is used to measure the movement of
the eardrum and pressure in the ear canal.
In addition to hearing and pressure tests, nasal endoscopy is often performed to look more
closely at the Eustachian Tubes, nasal cavities and the back of the throat.
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction Treatment
Sinus infection and Eustachian Tube Dysfunction treatment typically involves first trying to get
the tube open by swallowing, chewing or yawning. Some people receive relief from holding the nostrils and mouth
shut while trying to pop out the ear drums.
You can also get relief through nasal irrigation using either a plastic syringe
or a neti pot. Nasal irrigation, when done correctly, gives you immediate relief of the clogged ears
When symptoms of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction do not clear up within a few days, or are
particularly severe, it’s time to seek the advice of a doctor. He or she will be able to tell you which
antihistamine, nasal decongestant and/or nasal steroids is best for your specific symptoms.
Pain can be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. In extremely severe cases, a myringotomy
may be performed. This is where the doctor makes an incision to relieve pressure in the ear drum and to allow the
excess fluid to drain.
Do not scuba dive or fly if you have a sinus or upper respiratory infection.
If you do fly, chew gum during take-off and landing. There are also special ear plugs for slowly
equalizing the air pressure during flight. These can be purchased in many drug stores. A little
prevention goes a long way, but when sinus infection and Eustachian Tube Dysfunction do occur
simultaneously, early treatment is the best route. A quick trip to the doctor can nip things in the bud
before any damage to hair cells of the inner ear occurs which can lead to some permanent hearing loss.