Most of us have probably experienced popping ears before. Driving through the mountains or having a cold can have that effect. When ears begin to grow muffled on planes, though, it’s a phenomenon called “airplane ear.” Airplane ear (ear barotrauma) can result in mild discomfort to, in rare cases, some level of hearing loss. Fortunately, there are simple ways to protect your ears when you travel by air.
Airplane ear can happen in one or both ears. As mentioned earlier, symptoms may vary. Common symptoms are:
- Muffled hearing
- Discomfort or pain
- Stuffiness in ears
In more severe cases:
- Severe pain
- Moderate to severe hearing loss
- Increased pressure in ears
- Ringing in ears
- Bleeding in ears
In severe cases, especially if symptoms last more than a couple days, you should see a doctor.
While certain factors may heighten the risk of airplane ear, its main cause is fundamental. When a plane takes off or lands, the air pressure may change too fast for the Eustachian tubes to adjust. The Eustachian tubes are airways connecting the inner ear to the nasopharynx. Whether the outside air pressure grows higher or lower, the sudden change disables the eardrum from vibrating properly.
Children and infants may experience this more acutely since their Eustachian tubes are smaller. The common cold or an ear infection can also increase the risk of airplane ear.
To help prevent airplane ear, stay awake during take-offs and landings so that you can yawn and swallow to help adjust the ears better. Chewing gum or drinking water can assist in this. Children should sit upright when drinking. They can also blow bubbles through a straw. Another method is the Valsalva maneuver, in which you pinch your nose, close your mouth, and gently force air back into your nose as if you are blowing your nose. If you have pain, a cold, or an ear infection, you can take decongestant medications as appropriate.
In most cases, airplane ear heals on its own. In rare instances, surgery may be necessary, such as the implementation of an ear tube to assist in proper ear drainage, or an incision to help clear out fluid and restabilize air pressure.
Trust the Experts at Clarity Audiology & Hearing Solutions
Need help with your hearing? Clarity Hearing can help. Clarity Audiology & Hearing Solutions is an independently owned and operated clinic that focuses on quality of care and personalized, friendly service to the surrounding areas of Ellicott City, Catonsville, Columbia. Our Doctors of Audiology are highly trained with advanced degrees and take the time to provide the personalized care and attention that you need and deserve. We provide advanced hearing aid options that personally calibrated with cutting-edge digital technology to fit your hearing loss, your unique ear anatomy, and your individual listening needs.
Come in for a walk-in appointment on Tuesdays & Fridays from 10:00 am to 11:30 am or contact us to schedule an appointment by calling 410-698-6594 or visiting our contact page. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn for more blog posts, news, and updates!