Ears and Flying

ear pain

Ear Pain?! What happens to your ears on a airplane, and some tips and tricks to relieve the ear pain and discomfort. Pressure and pain in your ears during a flight can be very annoying and even painful. Especially when you have to wait 12 more hours to hear normal again. We love to share some information and tips with you to minimalize the pain.


How do our ears work?

As we all know, the ear is necessary for hearing sound. Sound is an air vibration. This vibration reaches the eardrum. The eardrum closes the ear inside and at the back of the eardrum is the Eustachian tube, which is running from the middle ear to the nose / throat. Air can flow through the pipe back and forwards, depending if the pressure in the middle ear is too high or too low. The condition is then of course that the Eustachian tube is not blocked. This can be blocked for example by mucus or an inflammation as a result of a cold, hay fever or an infection of the respiratory tract.

What happens when a plane takes off?

When a plane takes off the pressure in the cabin will decrease to a level where it will remain for the rest of the flight. Because this pressure is lower than on the ground there has to escape some air from the middle ear, otherwise the eardrum bulges outward. If all goes well, the air escapes through the Eustachian tube. That is much easier than the suction of air. That’s why not many people have problems with ear pain during a take off.
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ear pain

What happens in our ears when a plane goes down?

As the aircraft is preparing for landing, the pressure in the cabin is getting higher and the eardrums can be pressed inwards. Behind the eardrums, in the middle ear, the pressure should therefore also rise. Sucking air through the Eustachian tube does this. If you suffer from a cold or hay fever, the Eustachian mucous membrane in the tube may be slightly swollen, so the air is difficult to pass through. This has the result that the pressure behind the tympanic membrane remains too low, the eardrums bulge inwards and are strained. This will experience first as a pressure and later as ear pain. In addition, the tense eardrum cannot vibrate properly anymore, so you have numbness.

Ear Pain Tips and Tricks

  • Swallowing and yawning opens the Eustachian tube, allowing air to reach the middle ear during the decline.
  • There are a few other methods, such as your nose blowing, chewing gum, or drink while you pinch your nose shut. The method that works best for you must repeat a number of times during the landing. This is called " coping" . In addition, air flows more easily through the Eustachian tube, as you swallow, yawn or chew .
  • Breathe in and then gently breathe out with your mouth closed and keep your nose pinched (This is called the Valsalva maneuver). The air is not exhaled, but gently pushed into the Eustachian tube.
  • Try not to sleep during a landing.
  • If you have a cold, your ears are not totally blocked and you really want to fly, you can try a decongestant nasal spray. Such sprays, with Xylomethalozine for example , are available at pharmacies .
  • At some airplanes you can buy earplugs