Home Health & Wellness Hearing Expert Shares 5 Science-Backed Tips to Prevent Ear Popping on Flights Ahead of the Summer Holidays

Hearing Expert Shares 5 Science-Backed Tips to Prevent Ear Popping on Flights Ahead of the Summer Holidays

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“Aeroplane ear”, also known as ear barotrauma, occurs when there is an imbalance between the air pressure inside the middle ear and the air pressure outside of it. This happens noticeably during takeoff and landing and sometimes during air turbulence.

Here are some tips to help you prevent an aeroplane ear on your next trip:

1. Master the Valsalva manoeuvre

During takeoff and landing, you are most likely to experience aeroplane ear’due to the change in pressure as the plane climbs higher or lower in the sky. The Valsalva Manoeuvre is considered a relatively safe method of forcing the ears to pop.

Here’s how to perform it safely:

  • Sit or stand upright and take a deep breath.
  • Close your mouth and pinch your nostrils closed using your fingers.
  • Gently and slowly exhale while keeping your mouth and nose closed.
  • You should feel pressure in your ears or a popping sensation as air enters the eustachian tubes.
  • Release the pressure and inhale slowly to complete the manoeuvre.

When performing this, the results should be quick. If the ears do not pop easily, do not force them. Instead, speak to a pharmacist or GP who may recommend other treatment options, such as nasal sprays or otovents.

2. Yawn, chew and swallow

Yawning, swallowing, and chewing can help change the pressure in your ears by opening up the ear canal and altering the pressure. You can keep this up by drinking lots of fluids (the non-alcoholic kind) and eating or chewing mint gum, which will help generate more saliva to help you swallow more and keep your ears comfortable.

3. Take antihistamines

Taking antihistamines or hay fever tablets can help, as these contain decongestants. Decongestants work by reducing the swelling of blood vessels and are typically used for blocked sinuses. But they can be very helpful for popping ears, as they help relieve inner ear pressure. Decongestants may not be suitable if you have pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, in which case you should consult your GP. If you’re already prescribed allergy medication, this can also help with ear pressure, so you won’t need to take any additional antihistamines.

4. Wear earplugs to regulate pressure

Wearing earplugs, particularly filtered ones, can prevent the pressure from building up against your eardrum during takeoff and landing, thus greatly reducing the uncomfortable feeling. But it’s still a good idea to yawn, swallow, or chew while wearing them to increase their benefits. You can purchase filtered earplugs at local supermarkets or drugstores. 

5. Use nasal spray

Using a nasal spray can help reduce swelling in the sinuses, which in turn helps open the ear. This can help to balance the pressure inside the inner ear and minimise the chances of developing aeroplane ear. Whilst most over-the-counter nasal sprays are safe to use, it’s important to note that they might not be safe for individuals with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure. It’s always recommended to consult a doctor if you are at risk before using any unprescribed medication.

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