Traveling can really take a toll on our bodies with the poor air quality on planes, cramped seating arrangements and someone coughing up a lung behind you. What about plugged or popping ears which can cause some serious discomfort and permanent damage if it’s not taken care of. Airplane ear is nothing to shake your head at and dismiss, instead use these foolproof techniques for getting rid of this all too common issue.
Airplane ear is technically called Ear Barotrauma, which roughly translates to ear pressure trauma. When the barometric pressure falls rapidly like when traveling on an airplane our ear is affected and can cause pain and discomfort. The pressure affects our Eustachian tube, which is a connection between our nose and ear that regulates air pressure. When you fly the barometric pressure can change quickly which collapses the Eustachian tube and interferes with airflow between the nose and ear. This is when the familiar clogged feeling happens and your trip goes form great to terrible.
If you have a sinus infection or common cold, this clogged feeling can get pretty serious and eventually can cause permanent damage to hearing and the Eustachian tube. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of people taking off with a small head cold and landing with a ruptured eardrum, caused by airplane ear.
The only way to remedy this painful situation is to open up your Eustachian tubes so air can properly flow between the ear and nose.
Try these three proven solutions to this all too common problem.
Pinch nose and blow softly
Warning: this technique if done improperly can cause serious damage to your ear and hearing, so pay attention and follow these directions clearly.
To pop your ears back in to normal, working order, simply pinch your nose and softly force air into your tube by blowing. The real key here is to tilt your head towards the affected side; this forces the air into the precise tube. Don’t blow too hard, its best practice to start super soft and work your way up incrementally.
Caution cause blowing too hard can seriously damage and rupture your cochlea, which is the part of your ear that actually hears. Blowing too hard can cause the cochlea to leak fluid, which can affect hearing, balance and ringing in your ear.
Decongestants can help but you should take them before you need them, so thinking ahead really helps. Decongestants actually shrink blood vessels and reduce interior inflammation, which allows airflow in the Eustachian tubes again. If you normally experience painful airplane ear, maybe you should invest in some decongestant and take it about 20 minutes before your flight’s departure time.
Chewing, yawning or swallowing can help open your Eustachian tubes naturally, which is why people always offer you gum on airplanes. Small children can’t chew gum so if you suspect your baby has airplane ear, have them drink something or use a pacifier. Just moving your mouth muscles around can also help with the clogged tubes, so try some mouth exercises.
The clog should resolve itself a few hours after you land so if you can’t get rid of it on your flight, it should work itself out normally. If it persists and sticks around longer than 12-24 hours, you possibly have a fluid build up. You will want to see a doctor so they can get the fluid back up to drain and check to see if you have any serious damage.