When you travel by plane, the sudden change in air pressure puts stress on your middle ear. If this causes damage, you will have airplane ears, also called barotrauma. Barotrauma is usually temporary, but it can be painful. In some cases, airplane ears can lead to severe complications, such as a ruptured eardrum.
So how can you counter the effects of airplane ears?
Try the Valsalva Maneuver
This simply means that you should close mouth, pinch your nostrils together, and then gently push air through your nose. If you do this too hard, you may damage your eardrums. Make sure you stop as soon as you hear a pop.
If you’re sensitive to airplane ears, consider staying awake while you’re flying. You may need to keep repeating the Valsalva maneuver until it works.
Yawn and Swallow to Keep Your Eustachian Tubes from Clogging Up
Your Eustachian tubes connect your ears with your respiratory system, and they make sure your eardrum is under the right amount of pressure.
To keep your ears safe, you have to keep your Eustachian tubes open. Yawning and swallowing are the simplest and most effective way to counter the effects of airplane ears. Chewing on hard candy or bubblegum is a good option too.
It’s important to keep in mind that children have narrower Eustachian tubes, so they are at an increased risk of airplane ears.
Avoid Flying with a Stuffy Nose
People with allergies should take their medication before flying, and make sure that their breathing is as clear as possible.
If you have a cold, try to reschedule your flight. But that’s not always possible, so you could ask your doctor’s advice about flying with a clogged nose. Many people find that a nasal spray can help. However, decongestant pills may have dangerous side effects, so you might want to avoid them.