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Ear barotrauma

  • Definition

    Ear barotrauma is discomfort and possible damage in the ear due to pressure differences between the inside and outside of the eardrum.


    Alternative Names

    Barotitis media; Barotrauma; Ear popping; Pressure-related ear pain; Eustachian tube dysfunction


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    The air pressure in the middle ear is usually the same as the air pressure outside of the body. The eustachian tube is a connection between the middle ear and the back of the nose and upper throat.

    Swallowing or yawning opens the eustachian tube and allows air to flow into or out of the middle ear, keeping the air pressure on both sides of the eardrum equal. If the eustachian tube is blocked, the air pressure in the middle ear is different than the pressure on the outside of the eardrum. This causes barotrauma.

    Many people experience barotrauma at some time. Barotrauma commonly occurs with altitude changes, such as flying, scuba diving, or driving in the mountains. If you have a congested nose from allergies, colds, or an upper respiratory infection, you are more likely to develop barotrauma.

    Blockage of the eustachian tube could also be present before birth (congenital), or it may occur because of swelling in the throat.