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BackTable / ENT / Podcast / Episode #4

Managing Eustachian Tube Disorders

with Dr. Joe Walter Kutz

Dr. Ashley Agan and Dr. Gopi Shah talk with Dr. Joe Walter Kutz about the management of Eustachian Tube Disorders, including pearls and pitfalls on treating the "clogged ear".

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Managing Eustachian Tube Disorders with Dr. Joe Walter Kutz on the BackTable ENT Podcast)
Ep 4 Managing Eustachian Tube Disorders with Dr. Joe Walter Kutz
00:00 / 01:04

BackTable, LLC (Producer). (2020, August 20). Ep. 4 – Managing Eustachian Tube Disorders [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

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Podcast Contributors

Dr. Joe Walter Kutz discusses Managing Eustachian Tube Disorders on the BackTable 4 Podcast

Dr. Joe Walter Kutz

Dr. Joe Walter Kutz is a neurotologist and Professor of Otolaryngology and Neurosurgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX.

Dr. Ashley Agan discusses Managing Eustachian Tube Disorders on the BackTable 4 Podcast

Dr. Ashley Agan

Dr. Ashley Agan is a practicing ENT and assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX.

Dr. Gopi Shah discusses Managing Eustachian Tube Disorders on the BackTable 4 Podcast

Dr. Gopi Shah

Dr. Gopi Shah is a practicing ENT at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX.

Show Notes

In this episode, Dr. Walter Kutz joins Dr. Gopi Shah and Dr. Ashley Agan to discuss the essentials of caring for patients with chronic eustachian tube disorders. They emphasize that the diagnosis of patients with chronic eustachian tube disorders can be challenging. Patient history is often the driving factor in evaluation of these patients, but objective measures such as tympanograms can aid in the diagnostic process.

They describe in detail the differentiating features of patulous eustachian tube, a commonly missed diagnosis with a similar presentation as eustachian tube dysfunction. The best practices for evaluation of patulous eustachian tube are outlined, including the ideal set up for otoscopic and endoscopic nasal exams. They also touch on the treatment options for patulous eustachian tube, giving insight into procedure details as well as complications.

The discussion then evolves to focus on more complicated cases of eustachian tube dysfunction, including patients with atrophic tympanic membranes as well as those refractory to tympanostomy tube placement. The efficacy and challenges of eustachian tube targeted procedures such as balloon dilation are reviewed. The role of allergy evaluations in management and care of eustachian tube dysfunction patients are also considered. Finally, they touch briefly on some notes on the diagnosis of eosinophilic otitis media and superior canal dehiscence.


Dr. Kutz’s Website:
Dr. Kutz’s Twitter Handle: @EarDoc1
Dr. Kutz’s Instagram Handle: @walterkutzmd
PatulEND -

Transcript Preview

[Walter Kutz]
Yeah. I mean, I think the first patient you're describing, the ones that ... They have ear fullness. They have some intermittent pain. It's suggestive of eustachian dysfunction. They come in, but every time they come in, their tympanograms are normal. You don't see fluid. You don't see retraction. At that point, I'm probably thinking about other problems. Most commonly, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ dysfunction, is what I'm really thinking about if they have a normal exam. If a patient has cervical spine issues, sometimes that can radiate to the ear and they may have ear fullness and ear pain from that.

Of course, you always want to make sure they don't have any sort of neoplasm, so a good head-neck exam is always important, especially if they have persistent otalgia. But in the patients that say "Well, my ear is full all the time" or "My ears are full all the time" but their tympanograms are normal and their exams are normal, I'd be very hesitant to do any more than talk to them about allergies and allergy treatments. You may think about "Well, should I place a tympanostomy tube or not?" In my experience, seeing patients that have had that done on the outside coming in ... A lot of times they're not very happy with the tube. They sort of feel there's a tube there and their symptoms worsen.

One thing you could try ... I don't know if you've ever tried this, Ashley, or Gopi, but you can offer somebody just do a myringotomy. You can just say "Hey. Let's just make a small incision of the ear drum. Why don't you kind of test drive that for a week or so by the time it heals?" and if their symptoms are better with that, then you can place a tympanostomy tube, and you really haven't placed a tube with really not needing one. So, I think that's a good technique to try on some of these patients.

[Gopi Shah]
Yeah. I agree. I would favor that route as well, as opposed to putting in a tube, just to kind of see how things go, because if they do ... If the discomfort of the fullness truly is due to eustachian tube dysfunction, they should feel relief with a myringotomy, right?

Disclaimer: The Materials available on are for informational and educational purposes only and are not a substitute for the professional judgment of a healthcare professional in diagnosing and treating patients. The opinions expressed by participants of the BackTable Podcast belong solely to the participants, and do not necessarily reflect the views of BackTable.

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