Eustachian tube (yōstāˈshən) [key] [for Bartolomeo Eustachi], a hollow structure of bone and cartilage extending from the middle ear to the rear of the throat, or pharynx, technically known as the pharyngotympanic or auditory tube. By permitting air to leave or enter the middle ear, the tube equalizes air pressure on either side of the eardrum. The tube can become blocked, as by enlarged adenoids or the mucous secretions of a cold, so that external and internal pressure become imbalanced. Earache and diminution of hearing may result. The tube may also serve as a pathway to the ear for infections of the throat. A common ear disease known as otitis media, usually appearing in early childhood, is thought to be related to the Eustachian tube. The tube tends to be shorter and more horizontal among children, factors which facilitate the spread of infections from upper respiratory diseases to the middle ear, as well as the accumulation of fluids in the region.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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