We live in truly amazing times. Today, every American can visit any country and see all the wonders of the world. Travel has become much more affordable and comfortable thanks to airplanes and other forms of transportation.
During the flight, many passengers still experience discomfort and sometimes ear pain. Unfortunately, air travel and ear pain are closely related. You should be prepared for such symptoms and discomfort if you dream to see the world. Let’s talk more about this!
Why does airplane ear pain occur?
According to statistics, one in three passengers experiences unpleasant symptoms during a flight. These are:
Temporary hearing loss
Sometimes, pulsatile tinnitus
No matter what class you choose. Even business class does not guarantee you a relaxing flight without ear pain.
Noise can range from low to high frequency. Besides, you can hear a buzzing or ringing in one or both ears at once. Sometimes background sounds are so loud that they make it difficult to concentrate or communicate.
The pressure difference between the inside of the inner ear and the outside environment causes such symptoms. The rapid change in air pressure during airplane takeoff causes the air pocket inside the middle ear to stretch or shrink. On airplane takeoff, the eardrum expands and stretches; on landing, it contracts. Because of this deformation, passengers begin to hear worse. Some persist with symptoms for days after the flight. As you can see, ear pain and pressure are related! According to studies, one in ten passengers has changes in the eardrum after a flight.
If your hearing does not return within a few days, there is no time to lose. Take an online hearing test to check your hearing. If the result shows a problem, make an appointment for a consultation with your doctor.
Some may ask the question. If pressure causes ear pain when flying, why don’t climbers experience similar symptoms? There is a nuance here. As a rule, a sudden change in pressure causes ear pain. The hearing organs do not have time to adapt to the new conditions because of the sudden change in pressure, which results in painful sensations.
Is there a risk of a ruptured eardrum?
Some factors can interfere with the normal functioning of the Eustachian tube and prevent pressure equalization. These are:
Infectious diseases of the upper respiratory tract
Allergic runny nose
These factors can worsen the situation during the flight. First, there are complications of existing illnesses. Second, the eardrum can be severely damaged and even ruptured! It happens rarely, but the risk of such an injury is always there. Postponing the flight to another date is the best solution in case of an upper respiratory infection. Treat the illness first, and then go on your trip!
How do I avoid ear pain when flying?
Ear pain while flying is an unpleasant situation that can mar any trip. No one wants to experience unpleasant symptoms and temporary hearing loss when going on a well-deserved vacation or an important business meeting. You can avoid these symptoms while flying. Dr. Stella Fulman has prepared the following recommendations to help you reduce the risk of unpleasant symptoms to a minimum.
Swallow your saliva more often
It is a simple physiological process, but it is excellent for dealing with ear pain when flying. An air bubble moves from the nose into the middle ear during swallowing. The air then travels to the inner ear. When you swallow frequently, you strain the Eustachian tubes more quickly and equalize the pressure in the inner ear to that of the environment. Equalizing the pressure gradually reduces the pain as well! You can do it after landing if you have ear pain or temporary hearing loss. This way, you’ll be back to normal more quickly.
Use chewing gum or candy
The principle of their action is simple. Chewing gums and candies makes swallowing more frequent. You reduce the unpleasant symptoms more quickly. In addition, lollipops are a great option for children.
Try to stay awake during the flight
When you are awake, you have the opportunity to chew or swallow. And this, as we already know, equalizes the pressure in your ear and allows you to avoid pain and discomfort. Don’t let babies sleep during takeoff and landing, either. Give them something to drink or feed them. If your baby screams, don’t try to calm him or her down. Crying helps to open the Eustachian tube and equalize the pressure.
Wear hearing protection
Do you fly a lot? Buy and use custom hearing protection to reduce ear pain during a flight. Try EarPlanes. They are specially designed earplugs with a filter to equalize pressure. You can also find disposable earplugs at any airport. They are not as effective as EarPlanes but reduce uncomfortable symptoms, plus they are inexpensive. Earplugs are great for those who rarely fly and want to save money.
Use medical methods
We are referring to Valsalva and Toynbee maneuvers. Valsalva method: take in air with your mouth, close it and your nostrils. Gently push the air out. Such actions will open the Eustachian tubes. Toynbee maneuver: close your mouth and nose. Swallow as many times as you can until the pressure equalizes. These simple and effective methods are available to all airline passengers.
Help for babies and kids
All the methods for reducing ear pain and pressure are relevant for children. In addition, various methods increase the swallowing reflex, such as bottle feeding, pacifier, etc.
Use our recommendations to reduce discomfort during the flight. They are available to all passengers. Use them during the flight, and you won’t experience any trouble!
Is it worth seeing a doctor? Yes, if the temporary hearing loss does not pass within 2-3 days after the flight. Also, be sure to consult your attending audiologist if you already have any hearing problems.
About Dr Stella Fulman
Dr. Stella Fulman, AU.D., CCC-A received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Audiology from Brooklyn College in 2004 and her Doctorate of Audiology from Salus University in 2008. [ Learn More ]