With the weather warming up, many people are taking to the skies. However, no matter your destination, there’s something that many air travelers have in common, and that’s airplane ear. Airplane ear is a form of discomfort that often includes pain, popping, and pressure in the ear. A painful condition that can range from mild to severe, airpl ane ear happens when there is an imbalance between the air pressure around you and the pressure in your middle ear. While this condition is not considered to be dangerous, airplane ear can be very uncomfortable and can persist for several days, especially if you happen to fly with a respiratory ailment. Airplane ear can affect one or both of your ears and the symptoms often include:
• Muffled hearing
• Slight to moderate hearing loss
• Feeling of fullness in ear(s)
• Pain or discomfort
Don’t let airplane ear deter you from flying. Instead fight back with knowledge and preparation, and utilize any of these useful methods to help reduce or eliminate airplane-associated ear pain.
• Air pressure imbalance typically occurs during takeoff and landing, so make sure you stay awake during these times. By staying awake, you can practice the methods below to help eliminate or reduce pain and pressure.
• If you have any allergy or cold-related symptoms, make sure you take an antihistamine or decongestant spray at least 30-45 minutes before your flight. Following this method can help alleviate any additional sinus pressure.
• Taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen will help dull any pain you are experiencing, so don’t hesitate to reach for one. Pain-relieving medications will also help lessen any swelling and irritation in your sinuses and Eustachian tubes.
• Open up your Eustachian tubes and prevent pressure buildup in your ears by sucking on hard candy or by chewing gum. You can also yawn or swallow, but that can become awkward to do consistently. To help with this, sip water or munch on some snacks.
• Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drinking plenty of water will not only help keep your Eustachian tubes open but will also help keep you properly hydrated. Dehydration can actually increase your chances of experiencing sinus irritation and ear pain.
• Another method to open up your Eustachian tubes is to perform the Valsalva maneuver. To do this manual process, close your mouth and pinch your nose shut. Then very gently blow the air out of your nostrils to help nudge the tubes open. Experiencing a slight popping sensation when doing this is normal.
• There are earplugs available for purchase that is designed to help regulate the pressure buildup that occurs mainly during the ascent and descent of the plane. These filtered earplugs can often be found in drug stores or at the airport.
Luckily the pain and pressure of airplane ear are generally short-lived. However, if your symptoms get worse, or last more than a day or two after your flight, make an appointment to see your doctor.