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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Pressure and echo in right ear...help

08/20/2007

Question:

For close to two years I have had this problem on and off..the off part being more pronounced now. My right ear plugs up, I don`t lose my hearing but like other cases, I feel like I`m talking in an echo chamber. This is really bad when I`m in a car or bending over a lot. I keep trying to clear them, pop them, but nothing helps. It lasts for a day or so, or if I just sit and relax, it will go away. I find it hard to talk when this is going on because of the echo that occurs. Always wiggleing my ears to try and clear them. I`m to the point where I hate getting in a car because of how I feel after. They is not much pain related to this, sometimes just a small twinge of pain but the pressure bothers me more than anything. Have any suggestions?

Answer:

The symptoms that you are describing are fairly consistent with a patulous eustachian tube. This is a condition where the eustachian tube (that connects your middle ear space to the back of your nose and throat) does not function properly. One function of the eustachian tube is to equalize the pressure in your ear - for example, when you "pop" your ears when going through the different elevations or during a plane flight.

Sometimes the eustachian tube remains chronically open or 'patulous'. The symptoms are a plugged or full feeling in the ear and an echoing quality to your own voice. Hearing is sometimes affected, but not dramatically. Most patients complain of a nagging problem but nothing incapacitating.

Management is difficult. The eustachian tube is somewhat difficult to access in the back of your nasopharynx at the skull base. It is also a dynamic structure (that should open and close as needed). There have not been any good management options that restore this dynamic function.

A starting point is to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat physician, get a good exam of the ear, obtain a thorough hearing test (audiology testing) and then consider different treatments (nothing, a tube in the ear, other more involved surgical options, etc).

For more information:

Go to the Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Daniel   Choo, MD Daniel Choo, MD
Associate Professor and Director, Division of Otology/Neurotology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati