Barotitis Media

Barotits media is a condition caused by damage of the middle ear due to an increase in pressure, also known as airplane ear. The injury may be the result of an inability to equalize the pressure between the environment and the middle ear. The condition affects the many components of the ear including the middle ear, the eustachian tube, and the nerve endings in the ear. Many different activities can cause barotitis media such as deep water diving or change in altitude.

SYMPTOMS

  • A plugged feeling in the ear.

  • Muffled hearing.

  • Loss of hearing.

  • Ear pain that may radiate to the cheekbone and forehead.

  • Dizziness.

  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

  • Fluid in the ear.

  • Rupture of the eardrum (tympanic membrane).

CAUSES

  • Sudden change in pressure in an airplane.

  • Inability to equalize ear pressures.

  • Rapid ascent or descent with deep water diving.

  • Coughing or sneezing against pressure.

  • Trauma to the external or middle ear, in boxing or waterskiing, for example.

RISK INCREASES WITH:

  • Eustachian tube dysfunction.

  • Upper respiratory infection.

  • Ear infection (otitis media).

  • Air travel.

  • Scuba diving.

PREVENTION

  • Avoid activities that increase your risk of barotitis media if you have a respiratory infection or ear infection.

  • Perform ear-clearing maneuvers, such as chewing gum or sucking on hard candy.

  • Decongestants may help maintain eustachian tube function.

TREATMENT

In some cases medication may be used to treat barotitis media. Decongestants and oral antihistimines may clear excess mucus and maintain eustachian tube function. If the eardrum is ruptured, avoid an activity that may allow water to enter the ear. On occasion, surgery is necessary to clear excess mucus or repair the ruptured eardrum. If systemic complications of alteration of pressure occur, hospitalization for monitoring and decompression in a pressure chamber (barotherapy), or other treatments may be necessary.