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QotD: Flying Ear

Question: How do you avoid having your ears "plug" when flying?

My Answer: I've heard that you can blow through your nose while holding it shut. While that works, I'm afraid of literally blowing out my ear, so i don't do that. Chewing gum and yawning don't seem to work very well. Why hasn't someone invented something that makes the whole "ear poppping" thing a non-issue?

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11 Responses to "QotD: Flying Ear"

  1. The Valsalva maneuver, or forcing your eustachian tubes open by attempting to blow against your closed mouth and nose, is an effective and safe technique to equalize the pressure in your middle ear. I really, really, really wouldn't worry about "blowing out your ear" as you would feel a tremendous amount of pain before you came anywhere near doing damage to your eardrum. I personally use this technique when I fly and scuba dive to equalize my ears and I can attest to its safety and effectiveness.

  2. I usually do the "blowing out" thing, alternating by plugging each ear first as well.

    Swallowing a couple times also works well.

  3. The blowing out your nose with it plugged, if not done with care, can cause ear damage. I'd say you're wise not to mess with it.

    I take one sudafed (or the recommended two if I actually am congested, but two makes me a little restless) and the yawning and gum chewing usually works. It's annoying, but once the plane reaches a stable altitude, the ear popping goes away until descent.

  4. For the most par, Erik #2, I sometimes suffer from my ears NOT popping (i.e. returning to normal) for hours or sometimes even days after I have landed. They still feel "plugged up" or something.

  5. In my experience, if you increase pressure gently and stop immediately when you hear your eardrum adjust, you shouldn't break anything. Unless your eardrums already were hurt previously. I've done it for many years without problems.

    Alternately blowing and yawning will unplug my ears every time. You might want to check if you have excessive ear wax...

  6. Just after posting, I found these:
    EarPopper ($300??)
    Valsalva maneuver

  7. Erik #2 (and #1 too), do you guys have evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, that says the Valsalva maneuver(blowing against your closed nose and mouth) is dangerous? I can understand that it may not feel safe if you're unfamiliar with the technique, but other than that, why do you recommend not using it? I have never heard of anyone doing damage to their ears by using this method in all my experiences with scuba diving(where it is used rather extensively). The only thing I've read about it being possibly dangerous is if you try to hold in a sneeze by hold your nose and mouth shut.

    Rainer, the ear popper is a device based on the Politzer maneuver, or forcing air into the nose while swallowing, which was first developed in the early 1860s.

  8. I'm just enough of a Martial Arts geek that I figured out the muscles to use in my jaw to get my eustachian tubes to adjust on their own...the best way i can describe it is that I open my mouth slightly, and clench the muscles at the back of my jaw.

    But having dove since 1980, i'm with'd have to WANT to blow out your eardrums real bad to hurt yourself with the Valsalva.

  9. Equalizing your ears is safe if you don't do it too forcefully. If you overdo it you can damage your middle / inner ear, not the ear drum which can lead to permanent tinitus or ringing in the ear.

  10. Try Airplanes. You can buy these in Target and most pharmacies. They look like little rubber corkscrews. You insert them in your ears an hour or so before the airplane starts its decent and it really eliminates the pressure. As a precaution I always take a decongestant an hour before I fly and carry some decongestant nose spray as well. Chewing gums and blowing your nose during decent also seems to help, but the Airplanes have been wonderful

  11. Well.... i unfortunately happened to blow out my left eardrum today trying to get rid of the pressure in my ears because my ears were pounding inside of my head.