We've all been there - ears clogging and popping as the plane ascends and descends. While it's a common issue, it can be uncomfortable and even painful for some.
Don't worry, though! Here are some tips to avoid airplane ears and make your flight more enjoyable and prevent hearing loss. Remember, if you're ever concerned about your ears, seeing a hearing care professional and getting a hearing test is best.
Why do our ears clog on planes?
The main culprit behind clogged ears on planes, also called “airplane ears”, is the change in air pressure. As the plane takes off and lands, the air pressure outside your ear decreases and increases, causing your eardrum to push outward and get sucked inward. This pressure change can be too much for the Eustachian tube, leading to discomfort or even painful barotrauma (airplane ears).
Five Tips to Prevent Clogged Ears
- Buy filtered earplugs: These handy earplugs protect your ears from loud noises and help equalize external air pressure, reducing discomfort. You can often buy them in the airport gift shop.
- Swallow, yawn, chew, or suck on candy: These actions stimulate the muscles that open the Eustachian tubes, alleviating inner ear pressure.
- Do the Toynbee Maneuver (during take-off): Pinch your nose closed and take a few sips of water simultaneously to equalize ear pressure.
- Do the Valsalva Maneuver (during landing): Pinch your nose closed and gently blow air through your nose with a closed mouth to pop clogged ears.
- Take a nasal spray for congestion: If you have a cold, using an over-the-counter nasal spray 30 minutes before take-off and landing can help alleviate pressure.
Post-flight ear care
If your ears remain clogged after flying, try the Valsalva or Toynbee maneuvers again. If those don't work, steam your ears by placing your head over a bowl of boiling water with a towel draped over it. Adding a few drops of lavender oil or eucalyptus can help reduce pain.
When to consult a hearing care professional
Airplane ears aren't dangerous, but if the pain or clogging persists long after your flight and you can't make your ears pop, it's a good idea to consult a hearing care professional and get a hearing test.