Regardless of whether you love or hate flying, it’s safe to say that we could all do without the blocked ears. In addition to the discomfort, the sensation of blocked ears caused by flying can result in you feeling disorientated and disconnected from your surroundings and can even result in temporary hearing loss. Unfortunately, it’s possible for blocked ears to last several days after you’ve stepped off the plane. Here is everything you need to know about why flying causes blocked ears and how to unblock your ears.
What causes blocked ears when flying?
Normally when you swallow, this causes a small click or popping sound in our ear. This is because a small air bubble has entered the middle ear from the back of the nose. It passes through the Eustachian tube, a tube that connects the back of your nose to the middle ear and that is lined with membranes. The air in your middle ear is constantly being absorbed by the membrane lining and replenished through the Eustachian tube, so the air pressure remains equal on both sides of your eardrums.
When the air pressure on either side of the eardrum becomes imbalanced, this results in blocked ears. This is why flying is so conducive to blocked ears, as the change in air pressure during take-off and landing causes the Eustachian tubes to become blocked. This means your eardrums can’t vibrate naturally, which results in sounds appearing muffled.
How can I deal with blocked ears before, after and while flying?
Before the flight: Take a decongestant or nasal spray
Taking a decongestant or using an over-the-counter nasal spray about an hour before your flight is a great way of warding off blocked ears. These pills and sprays shrink the membranes, which help your ears pop more easily.
During the flight: Swallowing
An easy way of fixing your blocked ears is by swallowing, as this activates the muscles that open the Eustachian tube. To swallow more frequently, suck on a hard lolly, chew on some gum, or drink a big glass of water. Try to avoid sleeping during take-off and landing as when you sleep, you don’t swallow or chew, making the pressure build faster. Try to resist taking a nap until the aircraft is at cruising altitude.
After the flight: Steaming
If your blocked ears are still hanging around hours or days after your flight, try steaming. Fill a bowl with hot water and inhale the steam to help thin the mucus and earwax that may be present in your ear. You can even add some drops of tea tree or lavender oil to the water to further reduce discomfort. Alternatively, have a hot shower for about 10 minutes.
Contact the experienced audiologists at The Art of Hearing
At The Art of Hearing, we are dedicated to ensuring your hearing health is in the best shape possible. Whether you’re suffering from blocked ears after flying or experiencing temporary hearing loss, our Perth audiologists are here to help. Contact The Art of Hearing today on (08) 9390 8811 or book an appointment online.