Can eustachian tube dysfunction cause a feeling of fullness in my ear?

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Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
People with a persistent sensation of fullness in the ear should get it checked out by a physician. Occasionally, hearing loss can create such a feeling. Temporomandibular joint disorders, which affect the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull, can also create the sensation. But a diagnosis of eustachian tube dysfunction does make sense.

The eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the nasal cavity, helps to equalize the air pressure on either side of the eardrum. If your eustachian tube is blocked or not working properly, there's less pressure on the inside of the eardrum than the outside, so the eardrum may cave in slightly, which causes that sensation of fullness. In serious cases, fluid accumulates behind the eardrum because pressure is so low that fluid from surrounding tissues and blood vessels gets pulled into the middle ear.

Some people try nasal sprays and over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants for eustachian tube dysfunction, but there's no evidence that they are effective for this purpose.

Putting a tube in the eardrum equalizes pressure on the eardrum by connecting the middle ear to the ear canal. These tubes are used most often in children as a temporary measure to give the eustachian tubes time to develop.

Perhaps more often than we'd like to admit, doctors are faced with problems that can't be fixed. This may be one of those situations. I would think about trying biofeedback or some other kind of mind-body technique. The fullness sensation may not go away completely, but people can train their brains so that bothersome, even painful, symptoms are less troubling.
Harvard Medical School Hearing Loss: A guide to prevention and treatment

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Harvard Medical School Hearing Loss: A guide to prevention and treatment

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.