4
$\begingroup$

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.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eustachian_tube

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.

|improve this answer|||||
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Good answer, but please do not provide any sort of medical advice on this site. Instead, encourage them to ask their physician. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Sep 30 '16 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for your very helpful answer, much appreciated. $\endgroup$ – user26702 Oct 2 '16 at 5:26
2
$\begingroup$

The Eustachian tube, also called the auditory tube (or canal) connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx (the back of the nasal cavity):

ear anatomy

From Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital

Here is where it connects:

upper respiratory system

From Wikimedia

|improve this answer|||||
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ +1'd for good diagrams. The second diagram shows the "entrance to auditory tube" at a position which could not be seen through the mouth unaided. Is that? $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Oct 1 '16 at 13:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AlwaysConfused that is correct. The nasopharynx is in the back of the nasal cavity, and the opening of the auditory tube is some distance above the soft palate, so there is no way of seeing it through the mouth. The back of the mouth is called the oropharynx (oro- being derived from oral). Pharynx is a general term for the tissue at the back of the throat, stretching from the nasal cavity (nasopharynx) to the mouth to the larynx (laryngopharynx) just above the split between the esophagus to the stomach and the trachea to the lungs (which actually contains the larynx). $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Oct 1 '16 at 17:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for these wonderful diagrams, very helpful in allowing me to visualize it. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – user26702 Oct 2 '16 at 5:29
  • $\begingroup$ @user26702 if you are satisfied in an answer, you could accept that by click on tick mark $\endgroup$ – Always Confused Oct 2 '16 at 16:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.