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Aeroplane ear

What causes aeroplane ear?

Have you experienced aeroplane ear? Usually it’s a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear. And it might cause moderate to severe discomfort or pain. When your flight takes off or lands, the sudden change in altitude makes air pressure inside the inner ear quickly surpass the pressure outside.

This rapid pressure change asfsa your ears, specifically in the Eustachian Tube. Often it is infants or young children who are most at risk, because their Eustachian Tube is narrower than an adults.


Symptoms of aeroplane ear

Aeroplane ear can occur in one or both ears. Some signs and symptoms may include:

  • Moderate to severe discomfort or pain in your earlooking out aeroplane window
  • Feeling of fullness or pressure in your ear
  • Muffled hearing or slight to moderate hearing loss

If aeroplane ear is severe or lasts more than a few hours, you may experience:

  • Severe pain in your ear
  • Pressure in your ear similar to being underwater
  • Moderate to severe hearing loss
  • Ringing in your ear (tinnitus)
  • Dizziness or a spinning sensation (vertigo)
  • Vomiting from vertigo
  • Bleeding from your ear

Usually self-care steps such as yawning, swallowing or chewing gum can prevent or correct the differences in air pressure and improve your symptoms.


7 Things you can do to stop or alleviate aeroplane ear

Chew and swallow

Anything that encourages chewing and swallowing will help you equalise the air pressure inside and outside your ears. Chewing gum or sucking on menthol lozenges are good options.

Valsalva manoeuvre

When chewing and swallowing is ineffective at equalising the pressure in your ears you might like to try the valsalva manoeuvre. This manoeuvre is done by exhaling against your closed airway. You do this by closing your mouth and pinching your nose shut while gently trying to push air out of your ears.

Blow your nose

Blow your nose gently prior to your flight, and during takeoff and landing. As well as equalising your ear pressure, gently blowing your nose increases your self-awareness of how your ears, nose and sinus are feeling.

Use nasal spray

Use non-medicated saline nasal spray the day before your flight and prior to take off and landing. Using a nasal spray thins and clears excess nasal mucus, keeps nasal passages moist and washes away dust and allergens.

Ear plugs for flying

Specially designed ear pugs slow down the rate of pressure change in the ear. They are supposed to alleviate the symptoms of aeroplane ear when the cabin pressure changes rapidly during take-off and landing.

Avoid sleeping

Some of us can’t help but nod off during a flight. But you really should try to avoid dozing during take-off and landing as you might be unable to react in time to equalise your ear pressure.

Feed babies and young infants

Feeding babies and small children encourages chewing and swallowing which equalises their ears.


When should you avoid flying?

Do you have a cold that includes an active ear infection or a blocked nose to the point where you can’t breathe? These issues might be severe enough to compromise the ability of your Eustachian tube to regulate air pressure. This could lead to ear pain or the ears filling with fluid or blood and in extreme cases, your eardrum could rupture.

Be honest in your self-assessment and listen to your body. That flight might be worth delaying to avoid the risk of some quite painful and serious outcomes. Make sure you have travel insurance, and check that it covers such circumstances to avoid feeling forced into making a bad decision.

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