For frequent flyers or those passionate about travel, exploring new destinations often includes varying levels of persistent ear discomfort during flights.
That’s because the eustachian tubes, responsible for equalizing pressure in the middle ear, sometimes struggle to adapt to changing altitudes, causing pain, muffled hearing, and other discomfort.
Philip T. Ho, MD, FACS, and his team at Silicon Valley ENT & Sinus Center in Los Gatos, California, offer outstanding care for individuals experiencing a wide variety of ENT conditions.
One of Dr. Ho’s specialties is diagnosing and treating eustachian tube problems that can make air travel a painful experience. Read why he may recommend eustachian tube balloon-plasty and what to expect during the procedure.
The eustachian tubes, one for each ear, are narrow passages that connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. This allows air to flow in and out, equalizing pressure on either side of the eardrum.
Nearly everyone who flies experiences temporary symptoms as the eustachian tubes work to compensate for quick changes in altitude. However, individuals with eustachian tube dysfunction may experience symptoms throughout the flight and beyond.
When you fly,, abrupt changes in air pressure during ascents and descents can lead to a disparity in pressure between the middle ear and the cabin, causing ear pain, fullness, and muffled hearing.
Eustachian tube dysfunction can be caused by allergies, sinus infections, persistent ear infections, injuries, or anatomical issues that narrow the tubes and impede proper function.
While various strategies like chewing gum, swallowing, or yawning can help equalize pressure, eustachian tube dysfunction can render these home remedies ineffective.
Eustachian tube dilation (balloon-plasty) is a minimally invasive procedure that can open the eustachian tubes, improving their function during air travel.
During the procedure, Dr. Ho inserts a tiny medical balloon positioned at the end of a small tube (catheter) into the eustachian tube. To widen the passage, he inflates the balloon, leaving it in place for several minutes before removing it.
This process helps improve the tube's function, allowing for better airflow and pressure equalization.
Benefits of eustachian tube balloon-plasty include reduced ear pain associated with changes in air pressure and improved clarity for individuals struggling with muffled hearing due to eustachian tube issues.
Additionally, eustachian tube dilation is a relatively quick and minimally invasive outpatient procedure requiring no incisions. Results are usually long-lasting, significantly reducing the frequency and severity of ear problems during air travel.
For more information about eustachian tube dysfunction and how to combat its effects when you fly, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Ho at Silicon Valley ENT & Sinus Center today. Call the office or request an appointment online.