Barotitis Media

What is Barotitis Media

Barotitis media is inflammation of the middle ear. This condition occurs when an auditory tube (eustachian tube) is blocked in one or both ears. These tubes lead from the middle ear to the back of the nose (nasopharynx).
This condition typically occurs when you experience changes in pressure, such as when flying or scuba diving. Untreated barotitis media may lead to damage or hearing loss (barotrauma), which may become permanent.

What are the causes?

This condition may be caused by changes in air pressure from:

  • Flying.
  • Scuba diving.
  • A nearby explosion.

What increases the risk?

The following factors may make you more likely to develop this condition:

  • Middle ear infection.
  • Sinus infection.
  • A cold.
  • Environmental allergies.
  • Small eustachian tubes.
  • Recent ear surgery.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Ear pain.
  • Hearing loss.

In severe cases, symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness and nausea (vertigo).
  • Temporary facial paralysis.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on:

  • A physical exam. Your health care provider may:
    • Use a device (otoscope) to look into your ear canal and check your eardrum.
    • Do a test that changes air pressure in the middle ear to check how well the eardrum moves and to see if the eustachian tube is working(tympanogram).
  • Your medical history.

In some cases, your health care provider may have you take a hearing test. You may also be referred to someone who specializes in ear treatment (otolaryngologist, “ENT”).

How is this treated?

This condition may be treated with:

  • Medicines to relieve congestion in your nose, sinus, or upper respiratory tract (decongestants).
  • Techniques to equalize pressure (to “pop” your ears), such as:
    • Yawning.
    • Chewing gum.
    • Swallowing.

In severe cases, you may need surgery to relieve your symptoms or to prevent future inflammation.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Do notput anything into your ears to clean or unplug them. Ear drops will not help.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

How is this prevented?

Using these strategies may help to prevent barotitis media:

  • Chewing gum with frequent, forceful swallowing during takeoff and landing when flying.
  • Holding your nose and gently blowing to pop your ears for equalizing pressure changes. This forces air into the eustachian tube.
  • Yawning during air pressure changes.
  • Using a nasal decongestant about 30–60 minutes before flying, if you have nasal congestion.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have vertigo.
  • You have hearing loss.
  • Your symptoms do not get better or they get worse.
  • You have a fever.

Get help right away if:

  • You have a severe headache, ear pain, and dizziness.
  • You have balance problems.
  • You cannot move or feel part of your face.
  • You have bloody or pus-like drainage from your ears.

Summary

  • Barotitis media is inflammation of the middle ear.
  • This condition typically occurs when you experience changes in pressure, such as when flying or scuba diving.
  • You may be at a higher risk for this condition if you have small eustachian tubes, had recent ear surgery, or have allergies, a cold, or sinus or middle ear infection.
  • This condition may be treated with medicines or techniques to equalize pressure in your ears.
  • Strategies can be used to help prevent barotitis media.
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