Blocked ears? Muffled hearing?

Blocked ears and muffled hearing (patients often describe it as having their ‘head in a bucket’) are some of the main symptoms of Eustachian tube dysfunction. 

This is a condition that can be remedied by a new minimally invasive treatment that I offer called Balloon Eustachian Tuboplasty. 
 
Please read on for more information..

What is Eustachian Tube dysfunction?

The Eustachian tube runs between the back of the nose and the middle ear (i.e the airtight box BEHIND your eardrum.) This tube is generally closed, but by opening it (such as when you swallow, yawn or blow out against closed nostrils) you allow air to travel up it and thus to equalize the pressure between the middle ear and the outside world. This happens automatically and regularly in everyday life if the system is working normally, such that you wouldn’t be aware of it happening.

If the tube is blocked (or is for some other reason not working properly), air cannot pass into the middle ear. As there is no other route for the air to pass into the middle ear, the pressure in the middle ear becomes less than that in the outside world and starts to cause symptoms in that ear. This is termed Eustachian Tube dysfunction (ETD).

The most common causes of ETD are inflammation in the nose and the Eustachian Tube caused by a lingering cold / flu or long standing sinusitis. This may be due to inflammation of the nasal lining associated with allergies.

What symptoms may I experience with Eustachian Tube dysfunction?

  • Feeling of fullness / ears feeling blocked.
  • Muffled / impaired hearing
  • Popping / clicking or pain in the ears
  • Noises in the ears (called tinnitus)
  • Worsening problems with situations in which the air pressure around you changes such as when flying, passing through a tunnel, going in a lift or scuba diving.

How is ETD treated?

Until the arrival of Balloon technology, ETD was a frustrating condition to treat for both Patient and ENT Surgeon! Happily (particularly if the symptoms follow a cold or flu infection) the symptoms would often settle after a period of up to 3 months or so. In those Patients in which the symptoms persisted beyond 3 months however, the treatment options were limited, but often consisted of trials of 1 or more of the treatments below:-

  • Eustachian tube exercises, such as persistent blowing out against closed nostrils, yawning, chewing sugar-free gum or the use of a Eustachian Tube opening device called an Otovent (where you blow a balloon up through your nose, using a custom made nozzle inserted up the nostril.)
  • Use of intranasal steroid drops or sprays, in the hope that reducing the inflammation of the nasal lining (and thus that of the opening / lining of the Eustachian Tube) will resolve matters. This may be combined with antihistamines in cases thought to be associated with allergy.
  • Use of short courses of nasal decongestants such as Otrivine or Vicks Sinex.
  • The insertion of Ventilation Tubes (also called grommets) into the eardrums of the affected ear). See ‘Glue ear and grommets’ leaflet.

Unfortunately often these measures don’t work, so this is where Balloon Eustachian Tuboplasty offers real new hope for sufferers of this debilitating condition.

How does BET work?

Under a short general anaesthetic, a small endoscope is inserted up the nostril and the opening to the Eustachian Tube is identified on the affected side(s). The custom-made balloon is then passed directly up into the Eustachian Tube under direct vision, to a distance of 2 centimetres. The balloon is then inflated to an exact preset pressure, and left in the tube in the inflated position for 2 minutes. The balloon is then deflated, and all instruments are then withdrawn from the nose - nothing is left inside the nose or in the Eustachian Tube. This procedure expands the Eustachian Tube and restores it’s open pathway.

How long does the procedure take and how long should I expect off work?

The procedure takes about 30 minutes, and is performed as a day case (i.e you are in and out of Hospital the same day.) You should plan to take the day of the procedure and the following day off work (i.e 48 hours.)

Occasionally other procedures such as Septoplasty (to straighten the nasal partition and therefore improve access for the BET instruments up the nose) may be necessary and this may prolong the recovery period. I would be able to advise you of this at the time of your assessment in Outpatients prior to you booking your BET operation.

Is BET safe and effective?

The Balloon equipment has been used in the sinuses for over 10 years both around the world, and in the last 5 years or so by myself, with very good results particularly in cases where the frontal (forehead) sinuses require opening. 

The same equipment has now being used in the Eustachian Tube for the last 5 years or so, and the results from initial series of patients from around the world have been very encouraging. These series of patients have consistently shown that BET is superior to the more conservative measures used to treat ETD as I have outlined above, and most importantly it has been shown to be a safe procedure with no significant complications reported.

This equipment and technique has NICE approval.

How do I know if BET is right for me? 

If you have 1 or more of the symptoms I have listed above, and they are persistent for 3 months or more, then BET may help you.

Below is a validated questionnaire that I and others use for assessment of the severity of your symptoms. Fill it in and see what you score – if your problems are in the moderate or severe range, then BET may be an option and I would be happy to talk to you about it if you make an appointment to see me in Outpatients.

 

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction Questionnaire

As part of your assessment prior to potential treatment for ETD, how much of a problem have each of the following issues been a problem for you over the past 1 month ?

 

 

 

   No Problem

    Moderate Problem

Severe Problem

 1.

Pressure in the ears?

1

2

 3

4

 5

6

7

 2.

Pain in the ears?

1

2

 3

4

  5

6

7

 3.

 A feeling that your ears are clogged or “under water”?

1

     2

      3

     4

      5

     6

7

 4.

Ear symptoms when you have a cold or sinusitis?

       1

     2

     3

     4

      5

     6

      7

 5.

Crackling or popping sounds in the ears?

   1

 2

 3

 4

      5

6

7

 6.

Ringing in the ears?

  1

 2

 3

 4

  5

6

7

 7.

A feeling that your hearing is muffled?

  1

 2

 3

 4

  5

6

7

 Total Score?

Share This Article

Bookmark and Share

Send Us Your Comments

Please fill out the form below to let us know your comments.

Back to news

Book a Private
Apppointment
Online Here

Latest Testimonial

'To Mr Sharp and his team ... I want to thank you for my surgery on my nose that I had done at The William Harvey Hospital. You have changed my life.' M. S