Endoscopic Eustachian tube dilation is a highly successful treatment for Eustachian tube dysfunction, one of the most common causes of ear pain, ear pressure, recurring ear infections, and muffled hearing.
The procedure is effective, safe, and minimally invasive, and can provide long-term benefits for select patients. Plus, the endoscopic balloon dilation technique has the potential to be a long term solution unlike the standard solution of surgically implanting pressure equalizing tubes (tympanostomy tubes).
While not a first-line solution for Eustachian tube dysfunction, endoscopic Eustachian tube dilation is quickly becoming the preferred solution for both children and adults with repeat occurrences of Eustachian tube Dysfunction, and who do not respond to other treatment courses.
The Eustachian tube connects the back of the nose to the middle ear. It is one of the body’s versions of a pressure release valve, ensuring the pressure in your ear remains equal to that of the outside environment and is activated when sneezing, swallowing, or yawning. These are the same actions that help to regulate ear pressure when you drive into the mountains or takeoff/land in an airplane if the Eustachian tube does not perform the job on its own.
Unfortunately, the tube’s very small diameter makes it prone to becoming plugged, which we call Eustachian tube dysfunction. Without that necessary aeration and pressure balance in the inner ear, patients with Eustachian tube dysfunction experience frequent or permanent ear pressure, ear pain, recurrent ear infections and muffled hearing. Some patients also experience ringing in the ears, called tinnitus. Repeat ear infections make patients can be associated with sinusitis, rhinitis, and other chronic health issues.
In the past, due to the difficulty in accessing the opening to the Eustachian tube in the back part of the nasal cavity, surgeons have avoided potential surgical risks or complications by bypassing direct contact with the Eustachian tubes and surgically implanting tubes in the eardrum instead, acting as an alternative aeration device and pressure release valve. Effective while in place, the implanted tubes’ tendency to shift out of place or fall out can make them an inconvenience, necessitating repeat visits and tube replacements.
That’s why Dr. Hester is so excited to offer endoscopic Eustachian tube dilation to his patients and their families. It is a completely safe, FDA approved treatment for Eustachian tube dysfunction. Using innovative endoscopic tools, he can now directly expand and open the Eustachian tubes directly, mitigating the need for surgery and tube placement in the eardrums, and restoring comfort and clear hearing within a matter of minutes.
Restore Ear Health in 20 Minutes or Less
The procedure typically takes 20 minutes or less from start to finish. The tuboplasty procedure uses a transnasal endoscope, the same type used to perform sinus surgery, that is fitted with a saline balloon catheter. Once the patient is sedated, Dr. Hester uses the endoscope to gently access the Eustachian tube through the nasal passage and throat, eliminating the need for more invasive, or high-risk surgery.
Once in place, the balloon is inflated which opens up the clogged Eustachian tube. Dr. Hester holds the balloon in place for a couple of minutes to ensure the block is cleared and the tube is satisfactorily expanded. Then, he deflates the balloon and gently retracts the endoscope, at which point the procedure is complete. The patient is allowed to awaken from the mild sedation and generally has no significant discomfort.
Peer-Reviewed Studies Show Remarkable Success Rates
To date, peer-reviewed studies show the procedure is remarkably successful. Here are some highlights from their findings:
- A high percentage of patients have a resolution of their symptoms. This improvement continues even during long term follow up visits.
- Patients undergoing dilation actually report an improved quality of life.
Are You a Candidate for Endoscopic Eustachian Tube Dilation?
The typical candidate for Eustachian tube balloon dilation has chronic Eustachian tube dysfunction that causes them:
- Chronic pain or pressure, either continuous or intermittent.
- An inability to clear their ears while flying, visiting higher elevations, or skin or scuba diving
- Recurrent ear infections
- Hearing loss
Are you interested in learning more about endoscopic Eustachian tube dilation and how it can improve your ear health and quality of life? Schedule an appointment with us here at Dr. Hester’s office. A Stanford graduate and a board-certified doctor of Otolaryngology in Silicon Valley, Dr. Hester works closely with patients to find an accurate diagnosis and to create a personalized treatment plan using the least invasive methods.