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Blocked ears


the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation state that one in five New Zealanders suffer from respiratory problems.

How does that affect your ears?  Every time you sniff, you can block your ears. 

A little tube, called the Eustachian tube, is responsible for making sure that the ears unblock.. if this is not functioning properly, you can get blocked ears or fluid in the ears.


Colds, smoking, second hand smoke and allergies also affect this tube.   In children this tube is more horizontal and does not drain as well. 

Blocked ears may also be indicitve of a low pitched hearing loss.  Because your brain gets the same hearing as when your ears are blocked, this is the message that it sends. It could also be wax build up


Testing
The Eustachian tube is tested by sealing the ear and creating a gentle pressure to measure movement of the eardrum.  If there is fluid, it will cause the eardrum to move less or not at all.   Then we measure the eardrum after you have "popped" your ears. This tells us if this is effective in opening that tube and then swallowing to see if pressure in the ear can be normalized.  This test is usually done as part of a comprehensive hearing evaluation
The evaluation determines what the problem is and the best treatment option.

Treatment
Treatment may be as easy as "popping" your ears by holding your nose and blowing gently. That causes air to force open the Eustachian tube.  This may need to be done several times.  

Medications include decongestants such as Sudefed.  Inhalation steams with Vick's vapor rub, eucalyptus or tea tree oil also work.

If the Eustachian tube is not functioning, sometime grommets are necessary.  These are placed into the eardrum and take the place of the Eustachian tube.  

The eardrums's job is to protect the ear from germs.  If this is opened, it is very important to keep the ear clean and dry.  Ear plugs should be used when showering, swimming or at the hair dressers.  



Eustachian tube dysfunction can happen at any age.  It is more prevalent in older adults and young children.  I had a 52 year old male that asked about blocked ears but his email address was corrupted.  So if you know of a 52 year old male with blocked ears, tell him to look on this page.