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: ear | plug | eating | swallow

Why do My Ears Plug When I Eat?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013 05:40 PM

Question: My ears tend to plug up when I eat. Is this a sinus problem? What could be the cause?

Dr. Hibberd’s answer:

Ears that plug when you eat reflect an exaggeration of a normal function. The eustachian tubes are the ventilation tubes, one on each side that help equalize the middle ear, and open to the upper portion of your mouth behind your nose. When the eustation tubes close, your ears feel plugged.

During swallowing, the tubes are closed by muscular action. They reopen when you finish swallowing. Try swallowing now. Notice how your ears feel like they closed? Actually, it is your tubes that closed, then re-opened. So now you know this is not related to your sinuses.

Tube blockage that persists after swallowing should be evaluated by your physician. Perhaps you have mild underlying congestion from allergies that might be relieved by taking a daily antihistamine, leukotriene inhibitor, or topical nasal treatment. If they are unable to remedy your problem, visit an ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist).

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If your ears plug after you finish swallowing, you should be evaluated by your physician.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013 05:40 PM
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