Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Are Eustachian Tubes Impairing My Hearing?

Tuesday, 29 June 2010 04:17 PM

Question: I am a 72 year old female in relatively good health who has allergies. I was told I am losing my hearing due to blockage of the Eustachian tubes. When I lay down to sleep at night and lay on my ears, I can hear my heart beating, especially on the left side. It happens periodically on the right also. My doctor did not seem concerned, and didn't seem to know what causes it. Is this something that should concern me?

Dr. Hibbert's Answer:

Hearing loss from blockage of your Eustachian tubes is correctable. By itself, it will not cause permanent hearing loss. The Eustachian tubes function as ventilation tubes for the middle ear, the area behind the ear drum that contains the ear ossicles. The ossicles are located in an air filled area that permits free movement in response to ear drum movement caused by sound impulses.

Fluid will often build up here when the Eustachian tubes are blocked, which impairs the movement of the ossicles and diminishes your hearing. Fluid build up behind the eardrum may occur with continuous Eustachian tube blockage, and should be corrected to allow return of proper hearing. In addition, these ossicles are not designed for function in a fluid medium and may become damaged if they remain "submerged" in fluid.

Usually medical treatment will clear this problem effectively. If obstruction and fluid remains remain, an ear nose and throat consultation is usually advised.

Infection, irritation (such as from cigarettes, smoke etc), and allergies are the most common causes. We place ventilation tubes in children to relieve this congestion and discomfort and to improve hearing. Tubes are not often required in adults, however some adults may benefit when medical measures fail to clear the fluid.

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