Altitude / Airplane Travel

Ears · Altitude · Airplane Travel

Why do ears "Pop" at high altitudes?

If the Eustachian Tube does not open efficiently, the rapid pressure changes encountered when flying can lead to air pressure on either side of the eardrum becoming unequal. The eardrum may begin to bulge outward or become retracted (sucked in).

Signs and Symptoms

  • Moderate to severe discomfort or pain
  • Feeling of fullness or pressure 
  • Moderate to severe hearing loss 
  • Unusual noises
  • Dizziness
  • Bleeding from your ear

Flying may affect your ears if you have:

  • A cold
  • Flu
  • Sinus Infection
  • Hay fever
  • Ear Infection

Children are especially vulnerable because childrens eustachian tubes are narrower than an adults.

Some things that may help during ascent & descent :

Blow your nose:  Daily- prior to flight | On take off and landing
5 blows to clear your nose  |  5 blows to clear your ears

  • Chew & swallow: Blue Airwaves gum or menthol lozenges will encourage chewing & swallowing 
  • Use a nasal spray the day before your flight & prior to takeoff and landing 
  • Valsalva: close nose and mouth and blow gently into cheeks 
  • Ear Plugs: wear ‘Ear Planes' (flight ear protection plugs) when ascending & descending
  • Do not sleep during descent.
  • Feed babies to encourage swallowing

See Your GP if Blockage or Pain Persists After Landing

  • The middle ear is an air-filled space separated from the ear canal by the ear drum.
  • The Eustachian Tube connects the middle ear space to the back of the nose and throat.
  • The Eustachian Tube opens when you chew, yawn or swallow, equalizing pressure in the middle ear.
  • Dysfunction of the Eustachian Tube can lead to discomfort when flying.

This information has been produced by Ear Health Ltd. It is intended as a guide only and is not a complete Medical explanation.