A blocked Eustachian tube can be treated with decongestant medications, antibiotics, and, in extreme cases, surgery. Many times, when a bacterial or upper respiratory infection is present, fluid can build up in the ears and Eustachian tubes. Symptoms of a blocked tube include ear pain, decreased or muffled hearing, and ear popping. If the infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics are generally prescribed to clear the infection.
A decongestant is a medication that often relieves symptoms of congestion, such as a stuffy nose and blocked Eustachian tubes. After the medication begins to work, the individual will often report that he hears a pop inside his ear, which indicates that the Eustachian tube has cleared. Although decongestants are often useful in treating this problem, they can cause significant side effects, such as palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia, so patients should check with a medical professional before taking them.
Sometimes, a Eustachian tube may feel blocked because of changes in barometric pressure. This can occur at high altitudes or when flying in an airplane. It is especially common during take-off and landing, but it can often be avoided by chewing gum. If gum is not available, yawing or swallowing can sometimes open the Eustachian tube. Barotrauma is a condition that causes pressure and severe pain in the ears, in addition to blocked tubes.
Ear infections are common in children, and they frequently result in earache and blocked Eustachian tubes. Fluid in the ear can cause this blockage and is sometimes resistant to antibiotics and home remedies. In these circumstances, a surgical procedure where tiny tubes are inserted into the ear to drain the fluid is sometimes useful in relieving symptoms. This treatment is not always successful, however, and sometimes needs to be repeated.
Occasionally, the Eustachian tubes will clear on their own without any treatments or remedies. This is especially true when the blockage is caused by getting water in the ears from swimming or showering. If, however, water remains in the ear for a prolonged period of time, bacteria can grow, causing an infection.
Ear infections that are caused by viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics. In these cases, the infection typically needs to run its course. Treatment for blocked tubes under these circumstances includes taking pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and instilling prescription ear drops that can help relieve pain and pressure.