Have you experienced pain or increased pressure in your ears when flying on an airplane? This is very common, and is usually worse when the plane is taking off or landing. It can also cause problems including permanent hearing loss if a passenger is already suffering with an ear infection, sinusitis or a heavy cold.
Problems with the ears when flying are often known as ‘airplane ear’, and this is defined as a discord in the levels of pressure in the middle ear and the external ear, which puts the eardrum and other tissues of the middle ear under stress. Read on for our top tips on coping with airplane ear.
Top Tips To Relieve Airplane Ear
Travelling with painful ears is not a pleasant experience. If you already have an illness that affects your ears, you may wish to delay your travel plans until you are able to fly with less risk of severe pain and long term consequences. However, if you have to fly, or if you experience airplane ear when you have no existing problems with your ears, you can try the following tips:
- Yawn or swallow frequently. Yawning is likely to be more effective than swallowing as it activates muscles more strongly, but either may help to ‘pop’ your ears, changing the pressure and relieving the pain.
- Suck sweets or chew chewing gum to activate the muscle that opens the Eustachian tube. This will help to rebalance the pressure in your ears and may help to prevent pain throughout your flight.
- Stay awake for the landing. As the movements associated with yawning and swallowing are the most likely to help relieve the discomfort of painful ears, you should avoid sleeping when the plane is descending, since you will be unable to yawn and swallow as the air pressure changes.
- Try breathing in through your mouth and forcing the air into the back of your nose, in imitation of blowing your nose, if the above suggestions do not help you to change the pressure in your ears.
If you experience unusual or ongoing pain or hearing loss in your ears while flying, you should visit your doctor or audiologist as soon as you can.
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