The Eustachian tube, also known as the auditory tube, is a small canal that measures around 3-4 cm in length. It connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat located behind the nasal cavity. It has a crucial role in regulating the pressure within the middle ear and keeping it equal to the external pressure. This function is carried out through the natural opening and closing movements of the tube, which are stimulated by various activities like swallow or yawning.
Patulous Eustachian tube dysfunction is a clinical condition that refers to an abnormal and chronic disruption of the normal opening and closing mechanism of the Eustachian tube, resulting in persistent tubal opening. This condition is rare and is more commonly observed in women, with only one ear typically affected. People with this condition experience symptoms such as, the sensation of having a plugged ear, autophonia (hearing one's own voice louder than usual) and intermittent hearing loss.
Eustachian tube dysfunction can results from various pathological situations, including:
Diagnosing Eustachian tube dysfunction can be challenging due to the lack of a specific diagnostic test and its overlapping symptoms with earache and tinnitus. An otoscopy typically does not reveal any changes in the tympanic membrane.
However, the following examinations may aid in the diagnosis of Eustachian tube dysfunction:
An otomicroscopy may show small movements of the tympanic membrane that are synchronous with respiratory movements;
A tonal audiometric examination may reveal a mild hearing loss limited to low frequencies;
A tympanometry test, which measures the compliance of the middle ear, may show an increased compliance (high peak) and a series of spikes that represent respiratory movements.
There are three different approaches for treating tuba beante:
A holistic approach may involve a Eustachian Tube Massage (ETM), which helps reduce pressure and promote the release of fluid from the tube, alleviating congestion and discomfort. If symptoms persist, it is best to consult a doctor.
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