Eustachian tube surgery refers to several procedures that fix problems with the eustachian tubes (small passageways that connect your middle ears to the back of your nose).
These problems — known as eustachian tube dysfunction — include blocked tubes, cholesteatoma (a type of cyst) and patulous eustachian tubes (abnormally large tubes).
Not everyone with eustachian tube dysfunction needs surgery. But when first-line treatments fail to work, it can provide relief from ear pain, chronic ear infections and other symptoms.
Who Can Benefit from Eustachian Tube Surgery?
In many cases, eustachian tube dysfunction can be treated with nasal sprays, antihistamine tablets or antibiotics. If you’ve tried these therapies but continue having any of the following symptoms or complications, you may need surgery:
- Autophony (the sound of your own voice is too loud in your ears)
- Chronic ear infections
- Ear pain
- Muffled hearing
- Persistent feeling of fullness or pressure in your ears
- Respiratory-synchronous tinnitus (you can hear yourself breathing at an abnormally high volume)
To find out if eustachian tube surgery is your best option, you should schedule a consultation with an otolaryngologist (ENT specialist). You can make an appointment with a member of the Rush ENT team by calling (888) 352-7874.
Surgical Procedures Available at Rush
Our team offers several surgical options for people with chronic eustachian tube dysfunction.
Standard Surgery: Ear Tubes
Ear tube (tympanostomy tube) placement is a common treatment for children and adults with fluid build-up, persistent ear infections and other eustachian tube problems.
During this procedure, your surgeon makes a tiny incision in your eardrum and drains any fluid within. Then they place small metal or plastic tubes inside the eardrum. These tubes, which usually fall out on their own within 18 months, allow fluid to drain from — and air to flow through — the middle ear.
Advanced Surgical Treatments
If ear tubes don’t provide relief, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. While many patients benefit from ear tubes, relief can be temporary; some people must undergo the procedure several times.
- Eustachian tube balloon dilation: During this minimally invasive procedure, your surgeon uses a thin, hollow tube (catheter) to place a special balloon inside the eustachian tube. When the balloon inflates it widens the tube, restoring air flow and preventing recurrent ear infections. This procedure, which takes less than 20 minutes, usually offers long-term improvement of symptoms — especially compared to ear tube surgery, which often needs to be repeated.
- Patulous eustachian tube reconstruction: During this new treatment for abnormally large eustachian tubes — which have historically been hard to treat — your surgeon inserts a small piece of cartilage into the tube. This new layer of cartilage narrows the tube opening, allowing the attached valve to close properly. Rush surgeons are among a handful of providers nationwide who offer this procedure. It takes about an hour and patients return home the same day.
Eustachian Tube Surgeons at Rush
Rush ENT specialists perform eustachian tube surgery in downtown Chicago.
Rush Excellence in Eustachian Tube Surgery
- Among the best in the U.S. for ENT services: U.S. News & World Report has ranked Rush University Medical Center’s otorhinolaryngology - head and neck surgery program among the nation's best. This accolade confirms that you can expect safe, high-quality care and better-than-average outcomes at Rush.
- Advanced diagnostic technology: Thanks to their use of nasopharyngoscopy (nasal endoscopy), Rush specialists can quickly and accurately pinpoint the cause of eustachian tube dysfunction. A catheter fitted with a tiny camera is inserted through the nose and gently guided down the back of the nose. This gives your doctor an up-close view of eustachian tube swelling or narrowing.
- Research-driven care: Rush ENT specialists don’t just offer advanced treatments — they also help develop and refine them. Our physician-scientists lead clinical trials to test new treatments for eustachian tube dysfunction. They’ve also helped develop guidelines for other providers to use when diagnosing patulous eustachian tubes.