For a wide array of individuals, flying causes a lot of discomfort in the ears. In extremely severe cases, the pain becomes intense while resulting it to bleed. Individuals can also lose their hearing for the time being. It can also lead to experienced of a ringing sound heard in the ears or even experiencing vertigo. This is usually because flying leads to clogging of ears. Ear problems are an extremely common complaint of the airplane travelers and while they seem extremely simple, it can result in temporary hearing loss or pain. Air travel can be made comfortable by learning the ways of equalizing the pressure in the ears instead of the suffering caused by an uncomfortable feeling caused due to pressure or fullness. In this article, we will help you with several ways that will answer this simple and important question for you: How to unclog ears from flying.
Why Do Ears Clog During Flying?
When an airplane ascents or descents, it leads to the imbalance caused in the air pressure. The air pressure also further changes rapidly. This also involves the change of air pressure caused in the middle air. The Eustachian tube, which is in charge of the regulation of air pressure in the ears, cannot react quickly enough to the rapid changes caused by the pressure. This prevents the tympanic membrane, which is located within the eardrum to vibrate in a correct manner. This further clogs the ears and causes discomforts.
There are other instances where the ears might be clogged. Such instances include scuba diving, to be near an explosion or even hyperbaric oxygen chambers. It can also be clogged while going up or down in an escalator or even driving through a mountain range. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that can be taken in order to prevent the occurrence.
Can air travel cause hearing problems?
Air travel is often accompanied by sudden changes in air pressure. To maintain equilibrium, the Eustachian tube frequently opens and closes to accommodate the change in pressure. The sudden change in pressure is generally observed when the plane is landing i.e. going from low atmospheric pressure to high atmospheric pressure.
This causes ears to clog and also increased pressure on the eardrums, resulting in hearing problems, especially for those suffering with cold or other hearing ailments.
Symptoms of Clogged Ears From Flying
Change in pressure can cause one or even both the ears to get clogged. Some of the signs and symptoms include:
- Mild discomfort or pain in the ear
- Feeling of stuffiness in the ear
- Feeling of fullness of the ear
- Mild and temporary hear loss
- Ringing sensation in the ear
- Nausea or vomiting
When to see a doctor?
If the feeling of discomfort does not go or the pain becomes severe, then you must consult your doctor immediately. In case you have cold, your doctor may prescribe treatment or use vacuum to unclog your ears.
If you have one of the following conditions, your ear may become clogged very easily:
- Otitis Media or middle ear infection
- Sleeping during take-off and landing
- A severe sinus infection
- A narrow Eustachian tube, especially in young children
- Allergic Rhinitis
- Flu or common cold
How to Unclog Ears From Flying
To have clogged ears from flying is an extremely common phenomenon, which can be resolved very easily and in a simple manner. Following are the effective ways for unclogging the ears.
- Valsalva Maneuver :- The nose should be held shut with the thumb and the index finger while inhaling a large breath of air. It is important to close the mouth shut while pushing air toward the closed nose until and unless you can feel and hear the popping of ears. The procedure might be repeated several times in order to achieve maximum relief.
- Yawn and swallow :- The action of yawning along with swallowing works in order to activate the muscles. This opens up the Eustachian tubes, which helps in balancing the pressure within the ear. Sucking on chewing gum or cotton candy can also help in stimulating the muscles.
- Try filtered earplugs :- The filtered earplugs can be tried in order to unclog the ears from flying. The specialized earplugs help in equalizing the air pressure within the ear. This takes place when the plane is ascending or even descending. These earplugs can be easily found at the drugstores, the local hearing clinic, online or even at airport shops.
- Take Medication :- Following medications need to be done beforehand in order to prevent clogging of ears or even the cure of clogged ears.
- NSAIDs or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which include naproxen sodium or ibuprofen, an analgesic painkiller like acetaminophen, can help in easing out all discomforts.
- OTC decongestant nasal spray helps in avoiding all types of nasal congestion. This is generally intake when it is takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour before flying, takeoff or landing. While it is being used for days, it can cause congestion. Hence, its overuse should be avoided.
- Oral decongestants are usually taken around 30 minutes or 1 hour prior the takeoff in order to prevent clogging of ears. However, it is extremely important to always check with the doctor first as you might experience interaction or any kind of side effects if you have heart diseases. Other conditions include being older than 50, having an enlarged prostate and high blood pressure.
- Medications of allergy also help in providing relief when it is taken an hour before takeoff.
- Other Methods :- It is extremely important to try to avoid sleeping during flying as in situations when you are awake, proper steps can be taken in order to equalize the air pressure within the air. Other methods of travel can be also be considered, especially in cases when you recently have has an ear surgery or any other surgery in the area.
- Medical Solution :- Surgery is typically a rare solution for unclogging the ears. In severe cases, the surgeon might perform myringotomy. This involves a slight incision to be made in the eardrum in order to drain the fluid along with equalizing the pressure of air. In situations when the eardrum or the membrane ruptures, it usually is healed on its own. In rare cases, surgery might be required in order to repair the rupture.It is very essential to not use excessive force while the ears are inflated.The proper technique involves the pressure, which is created by the cheek along with the throat muscles. Treatment is usually based on the underlying condition and is followed depending upon its causes. For young children who have trouble in popping the ears, some devices help in popping the ears for you. Ear drops usually do not work as it cannot cross the eardrum for reaching out to the Eustachian tube which serves as being the culprit for the cause of all symptoms. At the same time, it is also extremely essential to keep the ear clean at all times. However, consulting a doctor or a physician is important at all times, especially in conditions like pregnancy.
- Surgery :- Surgical treatment for a clogged ear is very rarely seen. In severe cases, the doctor may have to make an incision in the eardrum and drain fluid to get back the ear equilibrium and unclog the ear.
- Gums and Candy :- Chewing on gums or sucking candy balls can cause a reflex action in throat which can help in opening the clogged Eustachian tube. Instead of candies, you can also take lozenges.
- Ear Popper :- Though not highly recommended, if all the above fail to unclog your ears, you can take the help of an ear popper prescribed by your doctor. The ear-popper will help in equalizing the pressure inside and outside the eardrum and the Eustachian tube.
- Warm Water Shower :- Stand below a warm water show and tilt your jaw backwards. Swallow as hard as possible and see if your ears get unclogged. Steam from the warm shower will help in getting rid of any sort of ear congestion and cause equalization of ear pressure.
- Vinegar Solution :- Prepare a solution of 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% vinegar.
Tilt your head on one side and put 3-4 drops of vinegar solution using a dropper. Repeat the same in the other ear and flush your ears with warm water after 10-15 minutes.
How to help babies unclog ears from flying
Babies do not have the ability to pop open their ears on their own, however, sucking on a pacifier or a feeding bottle can be helpful in unclogging the blocked ears. Try to feed the baby during the flight and do not make him or her sleep during the journey. Young children are highly likely to have clogged ears during a flight as their Eustachian tube is narrower as compared to adults.