Airplanes and Ear Pains

You’ve bought the tickets, you have everything packed, all the plans are booked and you even have extra leg room on the plane! It feels like your whole vacation is in order and then it hits: ear discomfort on take off. 

Discomfort can often last for a split second or maybe a minute or two, but what happens when it lasts for longer? Regardless of the discomfort’s length, it’s never fun to be thousands of feet in the air and not finding a quick solution to alleviate the temporary pain. So what’s really going on when you have ear pains in airplanes? 

The Cause

Most commonly felt during ascending and descending, ear pain is caused by an unequal balance of air pressure inside the inner ear and outside. Air pressure is higher closer to the ground. So when an airplane begins to land, the landing is quicker than the time your ears have to adjust to the pressure. A rapid change in altitude doesn’t allow enough time for the inner and outer pressure to equalize, causing a tightening feeling and a muffled hearing sensation. 

The Solution

If you begin to feel the tightening and muffled hearing sensation during take off or landing, you should try some of the following to alleviate discomfort: 

  1. Yawning or swallowing to try and “pop” your ears
  2. Such on hard candies or chew on gum 
  3. “Equalize” your ears by pinching your nose, inhaling through your mouth, and slightly exhale through your nose (which you won’t be able to do due to the plugged nose) until you feel a “pop”

If you are sick, sometimes these sensations can be prolonged and intensified. If your symptoms do not go back to normal a day or two after flying, you should contact your local audiologist for a consultation. Center for Hearing is here to help if this occurs as well as provide additional information regarding ear and hearing care. 

4300 Rogers Ave. Suite #15
Fort Smith, AR 72903
(479) 785-3277