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eustachian tubeEustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD) refers to the inadequate opening of the tube that allows air pressure to equalize on both sides of the eardrum. Dysfunction can cause a sensation of fullness in the ears or of being underwater and hearing loss.

It can be caused by allergies, inadequate movement of the muscle that opens the tube or anatomical blockage of the tube. When it occurs on one side, an endoscopic examination of the nasopharynx should be performed to exclude abnormal growths or tumors that can block the opening of the tube.

Children are predisposed to ETD because of the short length of the tube and open angle of the tube. Prolonged dysfunction can lead to fluid accumulation in the inner ear and is called an effusion. This fluid may become infected and is called otitis media.

Some researchers have suggested an association between laryngopharyngeal reflux and eustachian tube dysfunction. Pressure must be equal on both sides of the eardrum or discomfort will occur.