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.
Tags: blocked | ears

Why Are My Ears Blocked?

Sunday, 25 November 2012 09:34 AM

Question: I am 67 years old and both of my ears have been blocked since I was in my late teens. They do open up sometimes when I fly (gain altitude) or when I am in a car reaching about 2000 feet, but then close up again. Allergy treatments don’t help. It could have been from gunfire in the Army but then why would they open and close with altitude changes?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

The sensation of opening and closing of your ears at high altitude is probably a pressure phenomenon where the Eustachian tubes (the middle ear's ventilation tubes) are decompressed sufficiently to allow free ventilation of the middle ear. I'm assuming you have no chunks of wax in your external ear canals.
Increased pressures are encountered as you descend in flight, and ear drum perforation may occur if the Eustachian tubes are sufficiently obstructed. Often Eustachian tube dysfunction is amenable to medical treatment, but given your very long period with this, I am convinced you may benefit from an ENT consultation.
Perhaps you have some simple obstruction (such as lymphoid tissue at the Eustachian tube exit in the upper mouth) that may be amenable to a simple procedure or perhaps some laser correction. Tympanostomy tubes are also an option for those with persistent Eustachian tube obstruction.
Correction is wise, as continued or prolonged obstruction may encourage fluid accumulation in the middle ear that can literally dissolve the tiny ossicles vital for speech discrimination and hearing.

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Blocked ears can be an indication of wax buildup or an obstruction.
Sunday, 25 November 2012 09:34 AM
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