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  • Do Your Ears Pop?

  • Do Your Ears Pop?

    Do your ears pop when you're flying on an airplane? If the answer is yes, then you are not alone. Also known as barotrauma or barotitus media, the sensation of ears popping is a common phenomenom among airplane travelers.

    Why Does it Happen?

    Any time there are changes in air pressure, such as riding in an airplane, or driving up a steep hill, the middle ear works to equalize the change of air pressure in the ears.

    There is a difference of air pressure on either side of the ear drum in the eustachian tube, which leads to the middle ear. Because air pressure is vulnerable to changes, the middle ear and eustachian tube cause the ears to feel pressure. The popping sensation is caused when air pressure is equalized in the ears.

    What You Can Do

    • Try Swallowing. Swallowing forces the eustachian tube to open and forces your ears to pop.

    • Chew gum. The motion of chewing encourages swallowing, which allows the eustacian tube to open and release air pressure.

    • Yawning. Although it's an involuntary action, yawning causes your ears to pop.

    • Take a nasal decongestant. Nasal decongestants shrink mucus membranes in the nose and ears and allow ears to pop more easily. Nasal decongestants aren't for everybody. If you have certain health problems, consult your doctor before taking them.

    • Give your baby a pacifier or bottle. Babies are unable to pop their ears on their own. Sucking on a pacifier or bottle allows babies to swallow and may help relieve pressure in their ears. Consult your baby's pediatrician before flying to make sure it's safe.

    Things to Avoid

    • To avoid damage to the inner ear and ear drum do not force your ears to pop.

    • Flying with a cold, sinus infection or allergies can cause extra pressure in your ears and make flying painful. If you can postpone your airplane trip, it's best to do so until you're feeling better, or consult your doctor about taking decongestants before your flight.

    • If you recently had ear surgery, consult with your surgeon about how soon you may be able to fly.

    • Avoid sleeping during take-off. You may not be swallowing enough to adjust the pressure changes in your ears.

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