Has it ever happened to you that during a sporting activity such as scuba diving, while freediving, you have suffered a strong pain in your ear? This condition is called barotitis and can significantly affect your hearing. In the article we will tell you what are the causes and symptoms of ear barotrauma and their possible treatments.
Definition of barotrauma
When we speak of barotrauma we refer to physical damage caused by a pressure difference. In the case of ear barotrauma or barotitis, it occurs when the eustachian tube suffers a strong variation in external pressure.
Barotitis, causes, symptoms and therapy
If the air pressure in the middle ear and the ambient pressure differ, they prevent the eardrum or tympanic membrane from performed its function normally.
At this time we may suffer from symptoms of barotrauma to the inner earwhich translates into a severe earache. Yawning allows the middle ear to obtain more air through the Eustachian tube, so that the pressure is regulated.
Causes of Barotitis
Among the most common causes of barotitiswe can highlight:
- Considerable changes in altitudewhether traveling by air or even on long road trips.
- Freediving practiceduring apnea descent, the pressure in the eardrum increases considerably.
- Trauma in the middle ear due to different causes such as contact sports or accidents.
- Low blood pressurecaused by various pathologies of the middle ear, Eustachian tube and nose
Symptoms of Barotitis
When a sudden change in external pressure occurs, the ear is unable to compensate adequately through its physiological mechanisms and this triggers a damage to the middle ear o barotitis.
A strong increase in external pressure pushes the eardrum over the middle ear, causing severe pain and alteration of its functions, resulting in a reduction of the hearing ability accompanied by possible dizziness.
Another of the most frequent symptomatologies in the ear barotrauma is the appearance of tinnitus as a result of exposure to overpressure. In this case, they are usually only a minor temporary discomfort.
The most common symptoms of barotitis are ear plugging, ear pain, tinnitus and transient hearing loss.
Pressure changes in the ear are common during flights.
The Eustachian tube is the organ in charge of maintaining the balance of internal and external pressure in our ear, therefore, changes in this tiny but important organ that is the auditory tube can cause annoying damage, which can result in barotitis.
Treatment of Barotitis
The most common treatment of barotitis is with drugs. and almost always resolve this pathology without major problems. On rare occasions, small symptomatologies may remain, which are usually derived from problems that were previously present.
The Vasalva maneuver or test is a method commonly used to compensate for the pressure difference in the ear, which consists of exhaling air with the glottis closed or with the mouth and nose plugged.
This practice must be performed with extreme care as it can cause permanent damage to the inner ear due to over-pressurization of the inner ear.
We must always rely on a physician for a correct diagnosis and treatment.
The Toynnbee maneuver consists of swallowing saliva, yawning, opening and closing the jaw and contracting the throat muscles. Through this practice we cause the pressure in the middle ear to compensate again.
In diving we should always try to descend and ascend gradually, so that our hearing is not affected by a sudden change in pressure and thus promoting adaptation to the environment.
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