Characterizing the Active Opening of the Eustachian Tube in a Hypobaric/Hyperbaric Pressure Chamber

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Abstract

Objective

Active and passive opening of the Eustachian tube (ET) enables direct aeration of the middle ear and a pressure balance between middle ear and the ambient pressure. The aim of this study was to characterize standard values for the opening pressure (ETOP), the opening frequency (ETOF), and the opening duration (ETOD) for active tubal openings (Valsalva maneuver, swallowing) in healthy participants.

Design/Participants

In a hypobaric/hyperbaric pressure chamber, 30 healthy participants (19 women, 11 men; mean age, 25.57 ± 3.33 years) were exposed to a standardized profile of compression and decompression. The pressure values were recorded via continuous impedance measurement during the Valsalva maneuver and swallowing. Based on the data, standard curves were identified and the ETOP, ETOD, and ETOF were determined.

Results

Recurring patterns of the pressure curve during active tube opening for the Valsalva maneuver and for active swallowing were characterized. The mean value for the Valsalva maneuver for ETOP was 41.21 ± 17.38 mbar; for the ETOD, it was 2.65 ± 1.87 seconds. In the active pressure compensation by swallowing, the mean value for the ETOP was 29.91 ± 13.07 mbar; and for the ETOD, it was 0.82 ± 0.53 seconds.

Conclusion

Standard values for the opening pressure of the tube and the tube opening duration for active tubal openings (Valsalva maneuver, swallowing) were described, and typical curve gradients for healthy subjects could be shown. This is another step toward analyzing the function of the tube in compression and decompression.

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