Your trip is planned. Your bags are packed, and you just found your seat on the flight to your dream destination. As you are flipping through one of the air-mall magazines and the plane starts to take off, you feel it. Your ears are popping, prickling. It’s not bad now, but you know it’s going to hurt during the descent. Does this scenario seem familiar? Unfortunately, for many people, a flight means more than air-mall magazines and bags of peanuts–ear pain on a plane is a common occurrence. Our Ear, Nose, and Throat doctors will explain why.
In-Flight Ear Pain
Ear pain on the plane is most common when the plane is landing, and the pain gets stronger with lower elevations. The cause is due to the inequality of pressure. The air outside the ear is changing in pressure as the plane descends, meaning that the pressure outside the ear is at odds with the pressure in the middle ear. The eardrum is pushed in, and the pressure in the middle ear needs to change quickly to match and relieve the eardrum. One remedy to relieve the discomfort is inserting an Eustachian tube in the ear. However, everyone is built differently, and some Eustachian tubes don’t open quickly enough to help change the pressure in the middle ear. That’s why some of us experience ear pain on the plane, and some of us don’t.
Alleviating Ear Pain
Here are some tips on how to minimize and control the pain or discomfort:
- Candy and gum. It sounds too good to be true, right? When have candy and gum ever been good for you? Truthfully, chewing hard candy and gum is good for ear pain, simply because chewing is one of the main actions that help push air up the Eustachian tubes. (Swallowing and yawning are good too.)
- Breathing. Breathing in a certain way can also help alleviate ear pain. Start by breathing in deeply, then, with mouth closed and nose pinched, breathe out gently. This will make your ears pop, which usually minimizes or completely alleviates pain.
- Sleeping. Another great thing to do to minimize in-flight ear pain is to not sleep. Sleeping during other parts of the flight is fine, but you do not want to sleep during the descent.
- Ear plugs. If these techniques still don’t work for you, you might want to try bringing something along with you–for example, air pressure regulating ear plugs. These are available in most pharmacies and airports. You can experiment with when to put them in and take them out, but it’s best to leave them in your ears throughout the descent.
- Landing. Once you’ve landed, pay attention to your ears. If the pain doesn’t subside soon, you may need the expertise of an ENT Doctor–an ear, nose, and throat doctor. These experts can help care for your ears if the pain doesn’t subside.
Interested in more tips for taking care of your ears? Looking for an ENT Doctor? Contact us at (208) 367-3320 today!