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Flying with Ear-popping Pressure

by Rieh Argel on Thu 18 Sep, 2014

Most of us have felt that uncomfortable ear-popping sensation whenever we travel by air. It is somehow a normal part of flying. Though common, the pain associated with this sudden change in pressure can be unbearable most especially to kids and babies. Let’ see what causes it and what can we do about it.

What causes it?

Generally, the pressure inside the ear particularly on the middle ear should be equal to the pressure outside or the environment. But sometimes, this doesn’t happen. The discrepancy of pressure between the ear cavity and the surroundings can be very excruciating. This happens to most people when flying or even diving underwater or whenever the air pressure around us changes suddenly.

What’s involved? The Eustachian Tube - A hollow structure of bone and cartilage that links the nasopharynx to the middle ear. It helps to regulate and equalize air pressure on either side of the eardrum by opening to pull a small amount of air in from the nasal passages allowing air to vent.

What can you do? (Remedy) Stop the divergence of pressure from building up in order to prevent or alleviate the problems of painful ear popping. Oddly, the best way to do this is to pop ears deliberately. By doing this, you allow air to come or escape your ear making the difference in pressure equalized. Here are some of the ways to do it:

• Swallow, chew gum or suck on candy – this increases saliva production which increases swallowing thereby opening the Eustachian tube to equalize pressure.

• Yawn frequently (skip over the noise) – to make it more effective, place a finger into your ear canal and press firmly while wiggling your jaw from side to side as you yawn

• Sniff or breathe – try to breathe in and hold for five seconds, then breathe out again

• Pinch nose and blow gently – known as the Valsalva maneuver, the use of this remedy should be considered as a last resort when all else fail; as this might increase the pressure making things worse.

• Take nasal decongestants and antihistamines – to clear nasal passage and alleviate the ear ache if you will be traveling with a cold, sinus problems or allergies.

• Breastfeed or Bottle feed – for babies, doing so will prevent your infant from experiencing painful ear-popping

• Try not to sleep when the plane is descending and ascending

Now, you don't have to worry about that uncomfortable feeling in your ear when flying. Just follow these tips and you're on your way to a peaceful and worry-free plane ride.