Barotrauma

Specialty of Otolaringology

What is Barotrauma?

Barotrauma is an ear damage caused by barometric changes of air or water. It occurs when there are changes in altitude (when traveling by plane or drive through the mountains and also when diving). The air pressure in the middle ear is almost always equal to the air outside the body. Eustachian tube is the connection between the middle ear, the back of the nose and upper throat. When we swallow or yawn the Eustachian tube opens to allow air in and out of the middle ear. This helps equalize the pressure on the eardrums. However, if the tube becomes blocked a difference occurs between the air pressure in the middle ear and the air pressure outside the eardrum. That is when barotrauma occurs.

What are the symptoms?

Barotrauma occurs when presents some typical symptoms:

  • Stuffiness in the ears
  • Hearing loss
  • Earache
  • Dizziness

Causes of Barotrauma or why it occurs

Barotrauma is caused by pressure changes that impact harmfully in the ear, not the Eustachian tube to equalize the pressure on the eardrums.

Can it be prevented?

To prevent barotrauma divers and people who travel a lot by plane should have a eustachian tube function properly and be able to "pop" the ears exercises swallowing, yawning or autoinflation. The audiologist can assess the operation by monitoring the eardrum. For people who travel by air are advised to use oral decongestants before or nasal sprays flight before landing. A divers are trained to prevent all types of ear barotrauma.

What is the treatment?

Treatment usually includes chewing gum and yawning, but also take nasal decongestants, since people with nasal congestion due to allergies, colds or respiratory infection are more prone to barotrauma.

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