Ear Barotrauma in the Mountains: How to Correct the Balance

Driving in the mountains can be a beautiful sight for the eyes, but it can be a pain in the ears. Typically, steep inclines or descents can create a clogged or stuffy feeling in the ears, and it’s called Ear Barotrauma. It’s when the air pressure outside of the eardrum becomes different than the pressure inside. There is a little opening called the Eustachian tube that connects the throat to the middle ear. This can become blocked or closed, and it can cause discomfort, dizziness, slight hearing loss or distortion (sounds like being underwater), if left untreated it can lead to severe pain in the ears, nosebleeds, or hearing loss.

Thankfully as serious as this condition can be, there are a number of remedies and treatments available. Here are seven ways to correct the balance in your ears.

  1. Yawning

Yawning is the oldest trick in the book. It directly opens the Eustachian tubes allowing balance to be restored to the eardrum.

  1. Swallowing

Having a tasty beverage or a chewable goody is a great thing to have on hand while traveling on trips that involve altitude changes. The motion of chewing and swallowing also opens the Eustachian tubes as it opens the throat.

  1. The Valsalva Maneuver

This technique has an odd name but is very easy to perform. Simply close the mouth, pinch the nose shut, and attempt to exhale through the nose. The pressure created forces the Eustachian tubes to open, but don’t exhale too forcefully, as this could damage the tubes themselves.

  1. Gravity Hopping

Ready to look silly? Just stand on one foot, bend your head and body parallel to the ground, turn your head so that your ear faces the ground, and start bouncing up and down until the pressure in the eardrum is equalized. Also called “one-legged gravity hopping,” it’s the most popular dance for those suffering from Ear Barotrauma.

  1. Neck Exercises

Gentle massage and movement exercises can also be very effective in creating balance in the inner ear. Slow movement and pressure can help clear blockages and allow for drainage of many of the canals and openings in the throat and neck.

  1. Warm Compress

At times, Ear Barotrauma can be complicated with other issues such as colds, allergies, and blockage. The heat from a warm compress can help soothe the pain of inflammation, and open the pores to assist drainage.

  1. Decongestants or Antihistamines

When all else fails, turn to drugs. Over the counter decongestants or antihistamines opens the nasal cavity as well as all the canals of the ear. Allowing everything to drain and pressures to be balanced.

If you have found yourself at the bottom of this and you still have not found relief, the next step is to call your doctor, or professional health care provider for further assistance.

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