Otic Barotrauma

What is Otic Barotrauma?

This fancy name merely indicates the discomfort that can occur in the ear when situations creating pressure differentials between the middle ear and the exterior take place. In today’s jet era any people travel by air, and during transit, the problem is most likely to arise. It is far more likely if the person is suffering from a mild head cold, or any infection that may block the patency (openness) of the Eustachian canal. This canal maintains air pressures within the middle ear equal to that on the outside, and this is vital to continued comfort. Other conditions where a similar problems can occur include tunneling, and scuba diving in deep water.

Otic Barotrauma Symptoms

Often in a person who has a cold or upper respiratory tract infection there is sudden onset of pain in the ear(s) as the plane descends. The pain may become extremely acute and may even be excruciating. Examined soon after, the drum may he very red and infected, and on occasion bleeding may result. Fluid may accumulate and deafness occurs.

Otic Barotrauma Treatment

Being sensible and avoiding flying whenever possible if a head infection is present will avert trouble. If this cannot be avoided, or if it is not noticed that there is a mild infection, or if the condition occurs during flight, using this simple maneuver may give prompt relief. This involves holding the nose between the forefinger and thumb, and then trying to blow into the nose.
This may help open the canal, and a “click” to occur, so allowing the pressures to equal. It should be repeated many times over. Sucking sweets may also help by opening the partially blocked canal. If unsuccessful, medical attention may be necessary. The middle ear must be aerated, and this will probably be done by the ENT doctor through Eustachian catheterisation or by paracentesis under antibiotic cover.