Home Health & Wellness Ways to Alleviate Ear Pain on Planes (Eustachian Tube Dysfunction)

Ways to Alleviate Ear Pain on Planes (Eustachian Tube Dysfunction)

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With school summer holidays now underway and many people jetting abroad, the team at Sweet Hamper Company collaborated with various experts to discuss all things on travel sweets, including how chewing gum or sucking sweets can help with ear pain (or ear-popping) on planes.

Dr Deborah Lee shared insight into what causes “ear popping” on planes: “When the plane ascends or descends, there are changes in the cabin pressure. The Eustachian tubes connect the back of the throat to the middle ear.

“Usually, the air pressure inside the middle ear and outside in the ear canal is about the same. But when the cabin pressure rises or falls, it takes time to equalise in the Eustachian tube. The tympanic membrane covering the middle ear is sucked in or pushed out quite suddenly, which can be painful and result in the sensation of the ear going to pop.”

Many people feel a bit uncomfortable in their ears when flying, and this is relieved when their ears pop. According to Dr Lee, the best way to deal with this is to:

  • Get as much air as possible into the Eustachian tubes. You can do this by swallowing, yawning, chewing gum or sucking sweets. Children can be helped by drinking through a straw, and babies by taking a bottle or sucking on a dummy.
  • Use the Valsalva manoeuvre to make your ears pop – take a mouthful of air, pinch your nose and shut your mouth. Then force the air out into your ears until you hear the pop.
  •  Stay well hydrated – keep drinking water.
  •  Some people find it helpful to use EarPlanes – special earplugs that help equalise the pressure in the ears. 

Alex Gill, founder and director of Sweet Hamper Company, commented: “Our research revealed that the process of sucking and swallowing is well known to help Eustachian tube dysfunction. Doing this draws air into the upper airways and the Eustachian tubes and helps stabilise the pressure in the middle ear.

“As chewing gum or sucking sweets can all help with alleviating ear pain on planes, our favourite sweets in these categories that we can recommend taking on your next flight include chewing gum, sherbet lemons, Jolly Ranchers, American hard gums, pear drops, bonbons, and lollipops.”

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