After more than a year of staying home, many Americans are safely returning to the skies. With this new sense of adventure comes the ear pain associated with airline travel. Below are some of our best tips and tricks for avoiding this discomfort.
Why Your Ears Hurt on Airplanes
Change in air pressure is the reason why your ears hurt when flying. While on the ground, the pressure inside and outside of your ears is usually the same. If you were to go for a hike up Mt. Hood, your ears can slowly get used to this change in altitude. When on an airplane, this change happens quickly, and your ears do not have time to equalize the pressure. This is known as barotrauma.
When there is more pressure inside your ear than outside, your eardrum starts to swell. When the pressure outside your ear is greater than the inside, your eardrum will be sucked inward. The stretching of the eardrum can cause pain and can also lead to hearing loss, as the eardrum is not able to pass soundwaves through to the middle ear, a crucial part of the hearing process.
Tips for Preventing Ear Pain
Next time you are boarding your flight out of Portland International Airport (PDX), keep these tips in mind to make your flight more comfortable.
Swallow or yawn to help move air from your nose into the middle ear through the Eustachian tube, which will help equalize the pressure.
Chew gum or suck on a hard candy to help stimulate frequent swallowing, which will help move air and equalize the pressure.
Perform the Valsalva maneuver to help open up your Eustachian tubes. Take in a mouthful of air and then close your mouth and hold your nostrils. Try to gently move that air from your mouth out your ears until they pop.
The Dangers of Ear Pain
While ear pain when flying is annoying, it can be potentially dangerous if you are already sick or suffering from allergies or congestion. A cold or the flu can cause your Eustachian tubes to swell, making it hard to equalize pressure. Add a change of altitude into the mix and you put yourself at risk of rupturing your eardrum.
To learn more about how to prevent ear damage while flying or to schedule an appointment with a hearing loss expert, contact Mt. Hood ENT today.