Airplane Ears? Tips for Easing Ear Pain on a Flight

Do you suffer with your ears when flying? Ears clogging and popping during a flight, commonly known as Airplane Ear, can be uncomfortable and even painful for some. 

What is Airplane Ear?

The main culprit is the change in air pressure, particularly during take-off and landing. As the plane ascends and descends, the air pressure outside of your ear increases and decreases, causing your eardrum to push outward and get sucked inward. This pressure change can lead to discomfort, pain and in severe cases Barotrauma and hearing loss.

5 Tips to Prevent Airplane Ears

1. Swallow, Yawn, Chew: 

These actions stimulate the muscles that open the eustachian tubes, which help to regulate middle ear pressure. Take some hard boiled sweets with you, just make sure to save some for the descent at the end of the flight! 

2. The Toynbee Manoeuvre, During Take-Off: 

Pinch your nose closed and take a few sips of water simultaneously.

3. The Valsalva Manoeuvre, During Landing:

Pinch your nose closed and gently blow air through your nose with a closed mouth. This can help to ‘pop’ your ears.

4. Treat Congestion: 

If you have a cold, hay fever, catarrh or any congestion in your sinuses, this can make pressure equalisation more difficult. Speak to your pharmacist about using a decongestant when you fly. 

5. Get Your Ears Checked:

Keeping on top of your ear health will ensure you are prepared for your next flight. If you are prone to wax, it is a good idea to get this removed as it can make pressure equalisation harder. Ear wax can also lead to dreaded ear infections whilst you are on holiday enjoying the pool and sea. Your Audiologist can also assess your eardrums and let you know if you have any visible congestion in the middle ear. 

Post-Flight Ear Care

If your ears still feel blocked after flying, try the Toynbee and Valsalva manoeuvres again. Failing this, consult your local hearing healthcare professional who can help to identify the issue and streamline your path to effective treatment if required.


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