Do not turn a deaf ear if you have these symptoms!
Ear congestion, which is the name of every condition that prevents sounds from being heard clearly, is a frequently encountered problem. There is an increase in ear congestion cases in recent years due to a rise in upper respiratory tract infections and the more common usage of planes for transportation. Doctor Güzin Akkuzu, who is an otolaryngologist in Acibadem Ataşehir Day-Surgery Center, has stated that ear congestion is generally a temporary condition which clears up on its own but sometimes can be the sign of a serious disease. Doctor Akkuzu warns: “If the complaint persists for more than 5 to 7 days and the congestion is accompanied by ear pain, ear discharge, dizziness and nose bleeds, there might be a serious health problem underlying it. Therefore, the patients who have these symptoms must apply to a physician as soon as possible.”
8 CAUSES OF EAR CONGESTION
Otolaryngologist Güzin Akkuzu lists the 8 factors that cause ear congestion:
- Ear Wax Build-Up: This is one of the most frequently encountered causes of ear congestion. Sometimes, the ear wax builds up in the external auditory canal due to hypersecretion or the inadequacy of the external auditory canal’s width. The build-up does not cause any disturbance until it fills the canal completely but leads to a sudden feeling of blockage once it fully clogs the canal.
- Foreign Objects in the External Auditory Canal: Foreign objects may cause ear congestion if they block the canal entirely.
- External Ear Infection: External auditory canal infections generally arise when the canal remains damp for a long time due to trapping of water in ears in the pool, sea or shower. The water retention in the external auditory canal causes pain as well as ear congestion for patients.
- Middle Ear Infection: The middle ear consists of a hollow space filled with air in which three ossicles serve to transmit sounds. When the middle ear is infected, this hollow space becomes filled with pus and disrupts sound transmission. Patients with middle ear infection complain of ear pain as well as ear congestion.
- Eustachian Tube Dysfunction: The Eustachian tube is a narrow canal between the middle ear and the nasal cavity (upper part of the velum and back of the nose) which serves to equalize pressure between the middle ear and the atmosphere and prevents the secretions at the back of the nose from entering the middle ear. It is not always open. It opens up when one swallows or yawns and equalizes the pressure between the middle ear and the atmosphere. Allergic reactions such as sinusitis or hay fever and sudden pressure changes such as the ones that occur during air travel cause the Eustachian tube to become blocked and the pressures cannot be equalized. Negative pressure that occurs in the middle ear generates a vacuum effect on the eardrums and the ear becomes congested. If the congestion is severe, patients may feel pain as well. If this dysfunction persists for a long time, the middle ear draws fluids from the surrounding tissues due to the vacuum effect and leads to a problem called “serous otitis”, which is known as “glue ear” in colloquial language. Serous otitis is one of the causes of long term ear congestion.
- Sudden Hearing Loss: Hearing loss which occurs abruptly or over a course of a few days is called sudden hearing loss. Sometimes, the patient perceives the loss of hearing as a sudden congestion or blockage. The reason is generally unknown. It mostly occurs unilaterally. Since an early start to the treatment increases the chance of success, it is recommended for patients to apply to a physician as soon as possible when they feel ear congestion, especially when they detect hearing asymmetry during phone calls.
- Mass in the Nasopharynx: The ears may become congested due to long term Eustachian dysfunctions as well. Therefore, it should be investigated through endoscopy whether a patient has an adenoid or tumor.
|What are the symptoms that accompany ear congestion?
Tips for relieving ear congestion
Otolaryngologist Güzin Akkuzu describes the methods of relieving ear congestion:
- Yawning or Swallowing: Blockage in the Eustachian tube is one of the most frequently encountered causes of ear congestion. Activities such as chewing gum, yawning and swallowing can relieve ear congestion by enabling the Eustachian tube to open and close.
- Hot Showers and Inhalation of Vapor: Hot showers and inhalation of vapor thins the mucus and eliminates the blockage in the nose and nasal cavity. It also eliminates Eustachian tube clogging, which relieves ear congestion.
- Moving the External Ear: If the ear is congested due to water being trapped in the external auditory canal, inclining the head to the side, moving the external ear and pressing a hot pillow against it may relieve the congestion.
Treatment is carried out according to cause
Otolaryngologist Güzin Akkuzu states that ear congestion is treated according to the underlying cause and informs: “For instance, if the congestion arises from earwax build-up or a foreign object in the external ear, removal of the build-up or object by the doctor treats the condition sufficiently. In external ear or middle ear infections, drug therapy is used. To resolve complaints in congestion cases arising from upper respiratory tract infection or sinusitis, drug therapy directed especially at eliminating nasal blockage or if necessary, antibiotic treatment is utilized. Serous otitis is eliminated via sprays against nasal blockage and if drug therapy is not sufficient, the eardrum is incised and the fluid inside is discharged. In some chronic cases, a tube may be inserted to the eardrum as a long term solution. If the cause of ear congestion is sudden hearing loss, antiviral drugs and cortisone treatment are applied. Ear congestions that are caused by a mass or adenoid may require surgical treatment.