Ear barotrauma

Alternative Names

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

Definition of Ear barotrauma

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

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.

Signs and tests

During an inspection of the ear, the doctor may see a slight outward bulge or inward pull of the eardrum. If the condition is severe, there may be blood behind the eardrum.

Treatment

To relieve ear pain or discomfort, first try to open the eustachian tube and relieve the pressure.

Expectations (prognosis)

Barotrauma is usually noncancerous (benign) and responds to self-care. Hearing loss is almost always temporary.

Review

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/3/2010

Ear anatomy

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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