The mysteries of blocked ear and subtle muscle functions

The mysteries of blocked ear and subtle muscle function

This morning I spoke to a client who had had tinnitus for 5 weeks. She had also had a blocked nose and a build-up of phlegm for the same period of time. As we spoke, she then revealed that whenever she flies in an airplane she experiences ear trouble. This was a further clue that Sound Therapy would be very relevant to her problems.

Like many people, she is doing the rounds of the GP, the audiologist, the ENT and the balance clinic. These processes and the testing they do are very effective at picking up on medical conditions such as tumors, eardrum perforations, middle ear infections and abnormalities of the bony structures surrounding the ear. Where they are not so relevant is for issues related to muscular function within the middle ear system. None of the testing done within audiology will identify if there is an issue of suboptimal performance of the middle ear muscles. However, this can be the cause of a large number of very annoying ear problems, which the client may experience as blocked ear, sinus, tinnitus, vertigo, muffled hearing, popping or pressure build-up within the ear, and difficulty equalizing when flying.

The middle ear muscles are tiny. Their performance is very subtle. If they don’t perform well it leads to all manner of ear comfort and performance issues, as mentioned above. People who have these problems usually find it difficult to get medical help. Medical practice, including audiology, is not geared to rectifying subtle muscular function. The techniques which do deal effectively with this field are The Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais, and to some extent CranioSacral therapy and osteopathy. Pilates retrains muscles but is not as subtle. When it comes to the ear muscles, however, the only technique I have ever heard of or come across to work in this area is Sound Therapy.

Why is subtle important? Well, think about it this way. If you have a traumatized muscle, from decades of slumping in an office chair or an armchair, hardly ever exercising, eating a suboptimal diet, being subjected to stress, continual fight or flight mode, holding chronic tension in those muscles, and then you decide to go to the gym and get fit, and you get on the weights machine and start training those muscles, what is likely to happen? It’s likely that you will strain some muscles. It may then take several weeks to heal, during which time you may decide that exercising is too risky and is not for you.

The message here is that muscles must be trained gradually, gently, consistently, under informed supervision, relevant to your age and your level of health and fitness. The right nutrients must be provided at the same time for your body to successfully fuel and mediate the suddenly added demands on your muscles and nerves.

The ear muscles are no different. In fact, since they are the smallest muscles in the body, they are very fragile and sensitive. The majority of people have been exposed, during our lifetimes, too many hours of noise that exceeds acceptable industrial noise levels such as 80dB (this is exceeded by loud music concerts, factory environments, trucks, airplanes when crossing the tarmac to board and Cicadas, to name just a few examples.) This noise has a damaging, cumulative effect on the ears, including the middle ear muscles. So our ear muscles are in a fragile state, not well toned, not very robust, mostly we are lacking a number of the essential trace minerals and nutrients our ears need, so it is not surprising that many people start to get symptoms from the muscles not performing quite as they should.

In my observations, about 5% of the people attending audiology clinics have a problem with chronic, middle ear muscle function which is giving them noticeable symptoms.

I am sad for these people as it is so hard for them to find a solution, and to find a practitioner who understands the nature of the problem. They may be told how to do the Valsalva technique—hold your nose and blow, or the Toynbee technique, hold your nose and swallow. This will temporarily clear the ears, but it will not resolve the problem that the muscles are out of tone and not doing their job.

The Eustachian tube is designed to open automatically each time we yawn or swallow. In this way, the middle ear pressure is constantly being equalized. When the muscles are weak or overly contracted through environmental and lifestyle damage, the ears do not automatically equalize and the person is left with a frequent or almost constant uncomfortable feeling of blocked ears.


Here is a typical report from one of our grateful listeners who had a chronic blocked ear.


“Four years ago I developed a problem with blocked Eustachian tubes whenever I flew.  Not being able to hear people properly was very frustrating, irritating and isolating.  Any pleasure in attending events was replaced with anxiety at not being able to be myself as I had to struggle so much with being attentive to conversations.  Occasionally, this problem would rectify itself on the return flight as the plane was taking off but eventually, I would suffer for weeks (then months) at a time with blocked ears.  This problem persisted until I decided to use Sound Therapy a year ago.


When my ears “popped” within three days of starting the treatment, I realized that my hearing had been worse than I thought!  I cannot express the relief of having my hearing restored.  Irritability and that strange sensation of disorientation simply evaporated with it.  An unexpected benefit occurred in the second week of treatment – very tight muscles in my jaw seemed to uncoil, leaving me more relaxed.  I have also noticed that I no longer clench my teeth during the night.  How wonderful!! I have flown many times since starting Sound Therapy and have not had painful ears or blocked Eustachian tubes.  Besides, I also ensure that this will not recur as I listen to Sound Therapy when I fly, so enjoy the other benefit of arriving refreshed and energetic. Sound Therapy is such a wonderful experience in so many ways.”

                                                                                                        Andrea Blackman 

New South Wales

July 2009


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