The auditory system is made up of three sections. The first is the Outer Ear which consists of the ear canal and the pinna which is the part that can be seen on the side of the head. The Middle ear consists of the eardrum, 3 bones (malleus, incus and stapes), tendons and the eustachian tube. The Inner ear consists of the cochlea (where the hair cells are that allow us to hear), vestibular organs and the beginning of the nerves that send the signals to the brain.
The anatomy responsible for regulating pressure is the eustachian tube located in the Middle ear. The eustachian tube is a soft tissue tube and its job is to open and close when pressure changes occur outside and inside of the body. The eustachian tube is what allows your ears to clear when you fly on an airplane or go diving in the Gulf. The pressure changes force the eustachian tube to open and close so the pressure in the ear system can change along with what is happening outside of the ear.
Why do ears sometimes feel plugged? When the eustachian tube is aggravated by an allergy, the soft tissue tube swells and sometimes fluid is also created. When the tissue swells or fluid is blocking it, the eustachian tube cannot open and close as needed, therefore, creating a plugged feeling. At times we can force the eustachian to open temporarily by holding our nose and blowing. However, addressing the allergy causing the aggravation could prevent the blockage and ear popping in the future.
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