Ear barotrauma: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Ear barotrauma is a condition that causes ear discomfort due to pressure changes. In each ear there is a tube that connects the middle of your ear to your throat and nose. It also helps regulate ear pressure. This tube is called the eustachian tube. When the tube is blocked, you may experience ear barotrauma.

Symptoms of Ear Barotrauma

Common symptoms, which occur earlier or in mild to moderate cases, may include:

  • dizziness
  • general ear discomfort
  • slight hearing loss or difficulty hearing
  • stuffiness or fullness in the ear

Once treated, almost all symptoms will go away. Hearing loss is almost always temporary and reversible.

Causes of Ear Barotrauma

Eustachian tube blockage is one of the causes of ear barotrauma. When the tube is blocked, symptoms develop because the pressure in the ear is different than the pressure outside of your eardrum.

Altitude changes are the most common cause of this condition. One of the places many people experience ear barotrauma is during an airplane’s ascent or descent. The condition is sometimes referred to as airplane ear. Other situations that might cause ear barotrauma include: scuba diving, hiking, driving through mountains etc.

Treatment of Ear Barotrauma

Most cases generally heal without medical intervention. There are some self-care steps you can take for immediate relief. You may help relieve the effects of air pressure on your ears by:

  • yawning
  • chewing gum
  • practicing breathing exercises
  • taking antihistamines or decongestants
  • Shop online for antihistamines.

In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or a steroid to help in cases of infection or inflammation.


In severe cases eardrum is ruptured. A ruptured eardrum can take up to two months to heal. Symptoms that don’t respond to self-care may require surgery to prevent permanent damage to the eardrum.

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