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Ear Problems After Flying

Ear Problems After Flying

If you are a frequent traveler by air, you might have come across the feeling of ear problems after you have landed. This article provides some information on why and how do these problems occur. It also includes some tips to help with the same.
Aparna Jadhav
Last Updated: Feb 8, 2018
It is a common observation that people who travel by airplane very often, experience ear blockage or a wired feeling of pressure on the eardrums. This usually occurs when the plane is descending to land, somewhere midway or even when the plane is taking off. These ear problems are caused due to unequal pressures that develop on either side of the eardrum, more often while the descending of the plane. You might feel a slight closure or blockage of the eardrum which could become more serious while landing. There are several ways in which the pressure on the ear becomes unequal, however you can surely deal with this problem easily.

The problems that occur after or sometimes even during the flight are caused due to pressure imbalances in the ear. Here is a detailed explanation on what exactly are the circumstances in which the pressures builds up differently, to lead to this ear pain which could be severe, many times. Find out how and why these problems occur and also what can be done to release these blocked ears.
  • In the human ear, there is a small space in the middle ear, behind the eardrum which is normally filled with air.
  • Now, this air space is connected to the back of the nose through a tiny channel known as the Eustachian tube. Normally, the air on either sides of the eardrum has to be at the same pressure, as this balances the neutral feeling inside the ear, creating a better hearing environment.
  • When this balance is disrupted due to the uneven air pressures at high and low altitudes, people may experience ear problems.
  • As the plane descends to land, the air pressure becomes higher near the ground level. Due to this, the eardrum is pushed in the inward direction and this causes the ear to pain giving it a blocked feeling (you cannot hear clearly in this state).
  • The only way this condition can be brought to normal is when the pressure inside the middle ear is raised quickly. Therefore, air has to travel up to the Eustachian tube and into the middle ear, so that the air pressure is equalized. You could also experience dizziness after flying due to this blockage. Flying after surgery could also lead to severe ear problems.
  • Even though the commercial airplane flies at over 30,000 feet, the cabin pressure is automatically controlled to the equivalent of a height of 6,500 feet. This pressure change is the exact reason for varied pressure in the middle ear and the eardrum, due to which there is ear pain.
Some Tips to Control Ear Problems
Many a time, your Eustachian tube may behave differently every time you are flying. If you don't usually experience such problems, you may the next time you fly. To avoid this unusual pressure change in the ear, there are some pain relief tips you can use the next time you are on the flight.
  • If you are taking up a long distance journey, make sure you are awake before the plane descends to land, as the blocked Eustachian tube doesn't open efficiently during sleep.
  • Using a glass of water, keep swallowing some or the other beverage, after every 15 to 30 seconds. You could also try pinching the nose with the thumb and forefinger and blowing air down it with your mouth closed (don't release any air).
  • Try to use earplugs, either of foam or cotton ones if you have ear pain when flying, as they will surely keep the cabin pressure from entering in the tube and disrupting the balance around the eardrum. Make sure you don't remove them throughout the journey.
  • The most important thing you should keep in mind is, try to avoid flying when you have cold. Due to the cold, the Eustachian tube is blocked more easily and thus, breathing at such times could be difficult. If you are traveling, use nasal decongestant drops before and during the flight.
With the aforementioned causes and tips for ear disorders after flying, you surely know what to do the next time you experience cabin pressure. This is not a very serious problem, but you need to be careful if you have other ear problems.

Disclaimer: This Vacayholics article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.