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Eustachian Tube Problems: Care Instructions

Ear, eardrum, and middle ear, with detail of trapped fluid in middle ear and blocked eustachian tube.


The eustachian (say "you-STAY-shee-un") tubes connect the middle ear on each side to the back of the throat. They keep air pressure stable in the ears. If your eustachian tubes become blocked, the air pressure in your ears changes. A quick change in air pressure can cause eustachian tubes to close up. This might happen when an airplane changes altitude or when a scuba diver goes up or down underwater. And a cold can make the tubes swell and block the fluid in the middle ear from draining out. That can cause pain.

Eustachian tube problems often clear up on their own or after treating the cause of the blockage. If your tubes continue to be blocked, you may need surgery.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Try a simple exercise to help open blocked tubes. Close your mouth, hold your nose, and gently blow as if you are blowing your nose. Yawning and chewing gum also may help. You may hear or feel a "pop" when the tubes open.
  • To ease ear pain, apply a warm face cloth or a heating pad set on low. There may be some drainage from the ear when the heat melts earwax. Put a cloth between the heat source and your skin.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Be safe with medicines. Depending on the cause of the problem, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medicine. For example, adults may try decongestants for cold symptoms or nasal spray steroids for allergies. Follow the instructions carefully.
  • Be careful with cough and cold medicines. Don't give them to children younger than 6, because they don't work for children that age and can even be harmful. For children 6 and older, always follow all the instructions carefully. Make sure you know how much medicine to give and how long to use it. And use the dosing device if one is included.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You develop sudden, complete hearing loss.
  • You have severe pain or feel dizzy.
  • You have new or increasing pus or blood draining from your ear.
  • You have redness, swelling, or pain around or behind the ear.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better after 2 weeks.
  • You have any new symptoms, such as itching or a feeling of fullness in the ear.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.