Experimental evidence against middle ear oxygen absorption.


  • Presented at the 87th Annual Meeting of the American Laryngological, Rhinological and Otological Society, Inc., Palm Beach, FL, May 10, 1984.


The present theory of eustachian tube (ET) function and middle ear (ME) ventilation posits that oxygen absorbed by the ME mucosa causes negative ME pressure which is relieved by periodic opening of the ET during swallowing and yawning. After developing a method to cannulate the ET of mongrel dogs we connected the cannulas hermetically to manometers. This system excluded ET function and tested the oxygen absorption capacity of the ME.

When we controlled respiration and maintained blood gas PO2 and PCO2 at normal levels, we were unable to find any manometric evidence of negative pressure of gas absorption in the dog ME.

Lowering the PCO2 and raising the PO2 of the blood by hyperventilation caused negative ME pressure which could be measured manometrically. We confirmed these findings with the tympanometer. Raising the PCO2 and lowering the PO2 by hypoventilation caused positive pressure in the ME.

There is no evidence in these experiments that O2 absorption occurs or causes negative ME pressure in the dog. To the contrary there is evidence that elevated blood levels of the more diffusible CO2 cause an increase in the ME pressure and lowered CO2 level causes a negative ME pressure.