Whether traveling for business, to see family or to go on vacation, there’s one thing everyone has in common when taking off from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport: ear pain and pressure. Fortunately, there are strategies for preventing and relieving this discomfort.
What Causes Ear Pain and Pressure When Flying?
Most of the time, the air pressure inside your ear and outside in your environment are the same. If you were to slowly hike up a mountain, your ears would have plenty of time to adjust to the changing air pressure so that it stays equalized. However, when you rapidly gain altitude, like when flying, there’s not enough time for the ears to adjust.
When you take off in a plane, the air pressure inside the ear becomes greater than the pressure around you, causing the eardrum to swell outward. On the other hand, when you land, the pressure inside the ear is less than the pressure outside, so the eardrum is sucked inward. This stretching is what causes your pain and discomfort.
This phenomenon is known medically as barotrauma.
How to Prevent Ear Discomfort When Flying
In order to prevent or manage barotrauma, you need to introduce as much air as possible into the ears via the Eustachian tubes. There are several strategies to accomplish this.
- Swallowing. Have you ever noticed a clicking or popping sound when you swallow? The sound is that of a tiny air bubble moving form the back of the nose to the middle ear via the Eustachian tube. When you fly, make the Eustachian tubes work overtime to accommodate the rapid change in air pressure.
- Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy. This will stimulate frequent swallowing and help introduce air into the middle ear.
- Valsalva maneuver. You’ve probably done this even if you’ve never heard the name of it. To perform the Valsalva maneuver, take in a mouthful of air, pinch your nose, close your mouth and gently “blow” out. This should open your Eustachian tubes and cause your ears to pop. Note: You should not attempt this maneuver if you have a cold or ear infection, or if you are experiencing allergy symptoms.
For more information about relieving ear pain or discomfort, or to schedule an appointment with an ear expert, call Total Hearing Care of Dallas today.