Ear barotrauma is characterized by ear discomfort due to changes in the pressure. In the ear, the Eustachian tube links the middle ear to the throat and nose as well as helping in regulating the ear pressure. If this tube is blocked, ear barotrauma occurs.
An occasional episode of the condition is common, especially in environments where the altitude changes. Even though the condition is not detrimental in some individuals, frequent cases can lead to further complications.
What are the indications?
If an individual develops ear barotrauma, there is an uncomfortable pressure within the ear. The usual symptoms that can occur earlier or in mild to moderate cases might include:
- Generalized ear discomfort
- Sensation of fullness or stuffiness in the ear
- Minimal hearing loss or difficulty hearing
If the condition progresses without treatment or in severe cases, the symptoms might worsen. Additional symptoms that might arise in such cases include:
- Ear pain
- Injury to the eardrum
- Sensation of pressure in the ears like being underwater
- Moderate to severe hearing loss
When treatment is started, almost all the symptoms will settle. Take note that the hearing loss from ear barotrauma is almost always brief and reversible.
Any issues that might obstruct the Eustachian tube puts one at risk for developing ear barotrauma. Individuals who have allergies, common cold or active infections are likely to experience the condition.
Infants and young children are also at risk for the condition. The Eustachian tube among children is smaller in size and positioned in a way where it is easily blocked.
Management of ear barotrauma
In most cases of ear barotrauma, it generally heals without medical care. There are some self-care measures that can provide immediate relief. The effects of air pressure on the ear can be relieved with the following:
- Chewing gum
- Using antihistamines or decongestants
- Perform breathing exercises
In severe cases, an antibiotic or steroid might be prescribed by the doctor to deal with the infection or ease the inflammation.
In chronic or severe cases of barotrauma, surgery might be the ideal option. Ear tubes are used for chronic cases. These are small-sized cylinders introduced via the eardrum to stimulate the airflow into the middle of the ear.
The ear tubes or grommets are generally used among children and can help prevent infections due to ear barotrauma. These tubes might stay in place for 6-12 months.
Another surgical option involves a small-sized slit made into the eardrum to allow the pressure to equalize effectively. This can also help with the removal of any fluid present in the middle ear. Take note that the slit will rapidly heal and not considered as a permanent solution.
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on ear barotrauma is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage ear injuries by taking a standard first aid course with Kelowna First Aid.