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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Retracted eardrum?

09/27/2006

Question:

I went to my family doctor because I was having a feeling of fullness and pressure in my left ear, however, there was no pain or infection, he told me that I had a retracted eardrum. What is a retracted eardrum? Even though he prescribed some oral medication(decongestant), and I have taken it, however did experience a side effect, is there any other way to help bring my eardrum back to normal, without the use of medication? Any home treatments?

Answer:

On the other side of the eardrum is a space, called the middle ear space.  This space is ventilated by the eustachian tube, a tube that travels from the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat.  This tube opens periodically, such as when you swallow or yawn, and maintains the middle ear pressure at levels equal to the environmental pressure. 

When the eustachian tube is not working well, a vacuum develops in this middle ear space, and the eardrum is drawn in or retracted.  This can make the ear feel full, or cause pressure.  You can open the eustachian tube by holding your nose and trying to blow your nose at the same time.  You may have tried this maneuver before when flying, for example.  If this fails to work, you may want to consult an ear, nose, and throat doctor.

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Response by:

Allen M Seiden, MD Allen M Seiden, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Division of Rhinology and Sinus Disorders, Director of University Taste and Smell Center, Director of University Sinus and Allergy
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati