I have had a bad flu with a lot of congestion. My husband suggests a way to clear my stuffed ears is to pinch my nose shut then blow air through. Sometimes that helps, sometimes there's just too much congestion. What is happening exactly when I do that? I've looked at diagrams of nasal and aural passages, but it's not clear to me what's happening when you block the nasal passage and then blow air through. I would like to know exactly what the passage of air/fluid is. Also, is it a bad idea to do it? Thank you.
The eustachian tube connects the nasopharynx to the middle ear, on each side. The (naso)pharynx is basically the back of the mouth, and the middle ear is a cavity behing the eardum.
It is normally closed when there is no pressure difference between the middle ear and the nasopharynx, by extension between the middle ear and the air around one. Its function is to avoid a ruptured eardrum that could be caused by such difference in pressure. (This could be the case when ascending a mountain, or diving underwater, where the ambient pressure drops or increase, but not the pressure inside the middle ear)
What you are doing is closing all passages for the air to flow out (mouth and nose closed), yet trying to blow it out : this artificially increase the pressure and opens the tubes. While it is usually a passage for air, if there is a fluid buildup it could flow through it too.
Whether it is safe is a more of a medical question, which would be better suited for your physician.