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Popping in the Ears: Could It Be Serious?

By Bert Brown Subscribe to RSS | July 19th 2012 | Views:

Ear barotrauma is the result of damage to the ear resulting from a difference in pressure between the outside and the inside of the eardrum, which normally causes a great deal of discomfort. The pressure within the middle ear is normally the same as the pressure outside of your body. Your Eustachian tube connects your middle ear to the rear of your throat and nose. Yawning or swallowing helps to open the Eustachian tube up and allow a flow of air to enter into or out of the middle ear, which keeps the amount of pressure equalized. If there is a blockage within the tube, the pressure in your middle ear will be different than the pressure on your outer ear. It is because of this that barotrauma results.

A lot of people will experience barotrauma at some point in their lives. It is the common result of a change in altitude, such as when you go flying or taking a drive through the mountains. If you are dealing with congestion from allergies or an infection, you are at a higher risk of developing barotrauma. Blockage within the Eustachian tube may be there before you are even born, or it could also be contributed to a swelling within your throat.


• Dizziness

• Discomfort or pain in both of your ears or just one

• Mild loss of hearing

• A feeling of stuffiness or fullness in your ears

If the condition extends beyond a reasonable amount of time, you may experience the following symptoms:

• Pain in your ears

• Pressure inside of your ears, similar to that of being underwater

• Nosebleeds

• Loss of hearing that is moderate to severe

During a routine inspection of your ear, the doctor may notice there is a mild bulging on your eardrum. If the condition is more intense, there may be a pool of blood behind your eardrum. It may be extremely difficult to differentiate between an ear infection and signs of barotrauma when the condition is severe.


In an effort to relieve the discomfort you are feeling, you first need to attempt to open the tubes to help relieve the pressure. Some of the things that you can try include:

• Chewing gum

• Sucking on candy

• Yawning

• While holding your nostrils closed and your mouth shut, inhale and then gently exhale

Whenever you are flying, it is recommended that you avoid sleeping during the descent. Use all of these measures on a regular basis to help open up the Eustachian tubes. Children may benefit from drinking or taking a bottle on descent.

Anyone who is out in the water diving should ascend and descend at slower speeds. Anytime you have a respiratory infection or allergies, you should avoid diving because it could result in severe barotrauma. If you have tried numerous methods for curing the problem on your own and nothing has worked, you might need to see a professional for a medical intervention. Severe barotrauma needs to be looked into by a doctor as well for treatment options.

Some of the recommended medications used for treatment include:

• Antihistamines

• Steroids

• Decongestants

All of these medications will help to relieve in nasal congestion and provide the opening in your tubes. If barotrauma is severe, an antibiotic may be able to prevent an ear infection. When you cannot get the tubes to open up with any of the conventional treatments, you may need to undergo surgery. A small cut is made in your eardrum that allows your body to equalize the pressure and help the fluid to drain properly. It is a rare occasion that someone needs to undergo surgery for this. If you are somewhere that requires changing your altitude frequently or you are more prone to developing barotrauma, you may need to have tubes inserted into your eardrums.

Bert Brown - About Author:
Dr. Bert Brown has been a practicing ENT physician for over 25 years - devoting his career to helping people with hearing challenges. His expert understanding of the hearing process led to his development of the SER™ Fitting Room, which simulates the real world and allows the patient to experience their improved hearing with their hearing aids as a whole body experience - customizing them to their individual needs.

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