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I Can’t Unclog My Ears When I Fly

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The patient: William, a successful businessman in his late 30’s.

Why he came to see me: He had problems with seasonal allergies that were particularly bad and had affected his hearing and his ability to “clear his ears” when flying to business meetings. An over-the-counter decongestant had initially helped but he felt that more could be done. He was a longtime subscriber to Bottom Line publications and knew of me through my presence on the Bottom Line Inc. website.

How I evaluated him: During my physical exam at our initial office visit, I evaluated his neck, explaining that sometimes misalignment in the vertebrae could contribute to his issues. His neck was fine, but during my inspection of his ears I found that when he pinched his nose and gently blew into it, his eardrums didn’t budge. This was significant in that clogging of the eustachian tubes, which lead from the back of the nose to the inside of the ear drums, could impair hearing and affect balance. It can also interfere with “clearing” during airplane takeoff and landing.

How we addressed his problem: I explained that it was possible that his adenoids, the tonsillar tissues at the opening of the eustachian tubes, were swollen and that I could directly compress and reduce them.

The technique involved my inserting a gloved finger, treated with a gel that I compounded containing decongestant botanical extracts, into his mouth along the roof, passing over the hard and then soft pallet, which separated the back of his mouth and the back of his nose. Having him relax and breath in short, panting breaths, I pressed the tip of my finger over the margin of the soft pallet into the back of his nose and quickly introduced it into the opening of his adenoids. The technique involves introduction and circular compression into each adenoid, one after the other. It needs to be done quite quickly as although not particularly painful, it is sufficiently unusual and alarming that patients appreciate my speed.

Obviously while I was doing this I was thanking him for allowing me to perform this procedure and not biting my hand!

The patient’s progress: Within minutes of finishing, he blew his nose and cleared his throat repeatedly and had a few cups of water. I re-examined his ears and saw that blowing into closed nostrils this time produced movement of the ear drums. He reported feeling “much more clearheaded” and felt that his hearing had noticeably improved. He returned once more to repeat the procedure and has not been troubled by diminished hearing nor ear-clearing problems over the past few months. He thanked me for “the anatomy lessen” (yes, pun intended!) and for coming up with a solution that he had never imagined.

For more with Andrew Rubman, ND, check out his video series, Nature Doc’s Natural Cures.

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