Intraindividual variability of the Eustachian tube function: a longitudinal study in a pressure chamber

Diving Hyperb Med. 2023 Mar 31;53(1):24-30. doi: 10.28920/dhm53.1.24-30.


Introduction: The Eustachian tube (ET) is essential for fast and direct pressure equalisation between middle ear and ambient pressure. It is not yet known to what extent Eustachian tube function in healthy adults changes in a weekly periodicity due to internal and external factors. This question is particularly interesting with regard to scuba divers among whom there is a need to evaluate intraindividual ET function variability.

Methods: Continuous impedance measurement in a pressure chamber was performed three times at one-week intervals between measurements. Twenty healthy participants (40 ears) were enrolled. Using a monoplace hyperbaric chamber, individual subjects were exposed to a standardised pressure profile consisting of a 20 kPa decompression over 1 min, a 40 kPa compression over 2 min, and a 20 kPa decompression over 1 min. Measurements of Eustachian tube opening pressure (ETOP), opening duration (ETOD), and opening frequency (ETOF) were made. Intraindividual variability was assessed.

Results: Mean ETOD during compression (actively induced pressure equalisation) on the right side was 273.8 (SD 158.8) ms, 259.4 (157.7) ms, and 249.2 (154.1) ms (Chi-square 7.30, P = 0.026) across weeks 1-3. Mean ETOD for both sides was 265.6 (153.3) ms, 256.1 (154.6) ms, and 245.7 (147.8) ms (Chi-square 10.00, P = 0.007) across weeks 1-3. There were no other significant differences in ETOD, ETOP and ETOF across the three weekly measurements.

Conclusions: This longitudinal study suggests low week-to-week intraindividual variability of Eustachian tube function.

Keywords: Diving; Ear barotrauma; Ears; Middle ear; Pressure equalisation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ear, Middle
  • Eustachian Tube*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pressure