Science Questions

Sun, 5th Dec 2004

Part of the show The Science of Light

Question

Connie asked:

I have a blocked eustacian tube. How did this happen and how can I clear it?

Answer

The eustacian tube is a connection from the back of your throat to your middle ear. Without this tube, your middle ear would be like a closed box, so that if you took off in a plane, the air inside your ear would expand and cause pain. The eustacian tubes allow you to equalise the pressure in your ears by letting air in and out. Swallowing several times can cause the pressure to equalise, and you know this has happened when you hear a popping sound. Divers equalise pressure in their ears by holding their noses and blowing. The tubes can get blocked by mucus left over after having a bad cold. With mucus blocking the end of the tube, air can't get past and pressure starts to build up. This is also the reason why people can't always hear very well after having a bad cold. Eventually, the mucus should clea and your ears should return to normal.

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