June 02, 2012

Devices That Help Fix Clogged Ears

Clogged ears due to eustachian tube dysfunction or fluid in the ears is one of the most common complaints seen in an ENT clinic. Beyond medications like steroids & nasal sprays or even surgery (ear tubes) to resolve this complaint, a fundamental physical maneuver the patient MUST also be doing is called "valsalva". Valsalva is the attempt to "pop" the ears by yawn, swallow, or attempting to gently blow air out the nose that is pinched shut.

The yawn and swallow are passive maneuvers to pop the ear whereby trying to gently blow air out the nose while keeping it pinched shut to create intra-nasal pressure is an active maneuver.

The key concept is that medications do not pop the ears for you... YOU have to pop the ears yourself. Medications just help accomplish this task.

Typically, when things are truly clogged and it is very difficult if not impossible to pop the ears open, actively trying to pop the ears open is key. Yawning and swallowing typically is ineffective.

However, there are patients who can't quite grasp the idea of HOW to pop the ears by nose pinching. OR, they are too scared that they might rupture their eardrums (which could happen if the nose-blowing is too aggressive).

Furthermore, what about the 2 years old who doesn't even understand how to nose-blow let alone valsalva?

As such, there are two main devices to perform the active valsalva for such individuals. Please note, I have no financial ties to either companies to disclose.


The first is a simple balloon called Otovent (can be purchased on Amazon). In essence, you snug the balloon up against the nose and try to inflate the balloon up. The balloon itself provides the necessary and sufficient back-pressure into the nose resulting in an active valsalva. This is mainly used by children who can appreciate the visual feedback.


The second is an electronic device, EarPopper (also can be purchased on Amazon), that pushes air into the nose. So, rather than having the lungs "push" air into the nose to create intra-nasal air pressure, this device replaces the lungs and pushes air into the nose from the front. This device comes in two flavors: Home and Pro versions.

Please keep in mind that there's another electronic device which supposedly helps with ear popping called EarDoc which is not recommended as it uses an unproven concept.

So there you have it...

Read more about this condition here.

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Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.


Dan Schwartz, Editor, The Hearing Blog said...

Is there any particular reason why you don't recommend the EarDoc? Safety? Efficacy?, Something else?

Anonymous said...

EarDoc does not work.

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