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How Do You Get Rid of Airplane Ears? 7 Home Remedies

7 ways to get rid of airplane ears in adults

Here are 7 effective ways to get rid of airplane ears in adults and a few ways to treat them in children.

  • Swallowing: Swallowing is an effective method that activates muscles to open eustachian tubes. Swallowing helps clear blocked ears in children because it is difficult for them to perform other maneuvers.
  • Chewing gums: Chewing gums or sucking on hard candy helps relieve pressure in two ways:
    • They stimulate the production of saliva, which increases swallowing
    • Continuous chewing helps open the eustachian tubes
  • Valsalva maneuver: This is a technique used to release pressure within the ears. You must close your mouth and nostrils by pinching the nose. Then blow your nose with little force such that the air is blown at the back of your nose. However, this must be performed with caution because it may damage the eardrum.
  • Toynbee maneuver: This is done similar to the Valsalva maneuver where you close your nostrils and mouth, but you swallow air instead of blowing it out. You may swallow a mouthful of water, which is easier than swallowing air.
  • Frenzel maneuver: This maneuver equalizes pressure in the middle ear. The nose is closed using the tongue, as well as the trachea is closed, so that the air present inside is pushed into the eustachian tubes. This maneuver is mainly done by scuba divers and free divers after they reach a certain depth in the waters.
  • Yawning: Forceful yawing helps the eustachian tubes to open. This is repeated several times until the pressure is released.
  • Using instruments
    • Earplugs: Special earplugs are available in the market that regulates ear pressure. They allow free flow of air from the surroundings into the ear, which regular earplugs cannot do. Though the effectiveness of these earplugs is not well established, they are being used as a precaution because they are economical and do not pose any risks.
    • Earpopper: This special device helps open the eustachian tubes. The instrument is inserted into one nostril and the button is pushed. This releases a gush of air into the nose and forces the eustachian tube to open. The fluids and pressure from the middle ear are drained out through the opened eustachian tube. You should use the ear popper device only when it is prescribed by a doctor.
    • Otovent: Otovent is a small balloon-like device that helps open the eustachian tube. This device has a nozzle at one end and a deflated balloon at the other end. You must keep the nozzle close to one nostril, close the other nostril with a finger and blow air into the balloon and inflate it. This device produces the same effect that is produced by a Valsalva maneuver. This gadget is very useful for youngsters and those who are unable to perform the Valsalva properly.
  • How to get rid of airplane ears in children

    Children cannot perform maneuvers that adults perform to release pressure in the ear, so you must follow certain methods to help them release the pressure.

    • Infants and babies are to be fed with a bottle or a pacifier can be used so that the baby keeps swallowing continuously, which relieves pressure in the ears. It is important to keep them up straight while feeding to prevent choking.
    • Older children can be given water to swallow, or they can be given hard candy or gum to swallow continuously.
    • Use decongestants 30 minutes before the flight or descent.

    What are airplane ears?

    Airplane ear is ear pain caused by sudden pressure fluctuations in the environment. This mostly occurs while ascending or descending during a flight.

    • Airplane ear may lead to severe ear pain, barotrauma that is rupture of the eardrum. 
    • Inflammation of the middle ear is called barotitis media or aerotitis media.

    In normal conditions, the pressure within the middle ear is maintained the same as the pressure in the atmosphere by the eustachian tube. With sudden changes in the altitude and pressure in the air, the eustachian tube collapses and the pressure builds within the ear tube, causing pain.

    With high pressure, the force exerted on the eardrum may rupture it. Sometimes, the pressure within the middle ear may drop than the outside pressure and sucks the eardrum inside. All these changes cause stretching of the eardrum and eustachian tube and result in severe ear pain, loss of hearing, vertigo, and tinnitus.

    What are the treatment options for airplane ears?

    There is no need for active management for airplane ear because it heals with time. However, if the pain persists certain treatments that stabilize the pressure within the eustachian tubes are to be done.

    Medical treatments

    The use of nasal decongestants in the form of a pill or a nasal spray decreases the formation of mucus in the nose and eustachian tube.

    So, the tubes are free to clear the pressure and fluids the buildup inside the ear. It is recommended to take medications, such as nasal decongestants, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, 30 minutes before flight or descent.

    Surgery

    Usually, surgical intervention for an airplane ear is not indicated. Even mild cases of eardrum perforations may heal on their own.

    In rare circumstances, an office treatment or surgery may be required.

    • Myringotomy is a small procedure that involves making an incision in the eardrum to equalize air pressure and drain fluids.
    • This may be followed by the insertion of a narrow tube to keep the middle ear pressure-free.

    SLIDESHOW

    Ear Infection Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
    See Slideshow

    Medically Reviewed on 2/28/2022

    References

    Image Source: iStock Images

    Bhattacharya S, Singh A, Marzo RR. “Airplane ear”-A neglected yet preventable problem. AIMS Public Health. 2019;6(3):320-325. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6779601/

    Children’s Museum Indianapolis. Why Do My Ears Pop When I’m in an Airplane? https://www.childrensmuseum.org/blog/why-do-my-ears-pop-when-im-in-an-airplane

    Harbison JM. Ear Problems and Air Travel. Boys Town National Research Hospital. https://www.boystownhospital.org/knowledge-center/ear-problems-air-travel

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