Man making his ears pop on an airplane.

Ever have trouble with your ears on a plane? Where all of a sudden, your ears seem to be plugged? Your neighbor probably suggested chewing gum. And while that works sometimes, I bet you don’t recognize why. If your ears feel blocked, here are a few tips to pop your ears.

Pressure And Your Ears

Turns out, your ears are rather wonderful at regulating air pressure. Thanks to a beneficial little piece of physiology called Eustachian tubes, the pressure of the outside world is able to be regulated, adjusted, and equalized inside of your ears. Normally.

There are some instances when your Eustachian tubes might have difficulty adjusting, and inequalities in the pressure of the air can cause problems. There are times when you could be suffering from an unpleasant and sometimes painful affliction known as barotrauma which occurs when there is an accumulation of fluid behind the ears or when you’re ill. At higher altitudes, you experience a small amount of this exact situation.

Most of the time, you won’t notice changes in pressure. But when those differences are rapid, or when your Eustachian tubes aren’t functioning properly, you can experience pressure, pain, and even crackling inside of your ears.

What is The Source of That Crackling?

You might become curious where that crackling is coming from since it’s not typical in day to day situations. The crackling sound is frequently compared to the sound of “Rice Krispies”. Usually, air moving around obstructions of the eustachian tubes is the cause of this crackling. Unregulated changes in air pressure, malfunction of the eustachian tubes, or even congestion can all be the reason for those obstructions.

Equalizing Ear Pressure

Any crackling, especially if you’re at high altitudes, will usually be caused by pressure imbalances. In that circumstance, you can use the following technique to neutralize ear pressure:

  • Swallow: The muscles that trigger when swallowing will cause your eustachian tubes to open, neutralizing the pressure. This, by the way, is also the reason why you’re told to chew gum on an airplane; the swallowing is what equalizes the ear and chewing causes you to swallow.
  • Toynbee Maneuver: This is really just swallowing in a fancy way. With your mouth shut, pinch your nose and swallow. Often this is a bit simpler with water in your mouth (because it forces you to keep your mouth shut).
  • Yawning: For the same reason that swallowing can be effective, try yawning. (if you can’t yawn on command, try thinking about someone else yawning, that usually will work.)
  • Frenzel Maneuver: Okay, try this maneuver. Pinch your nose, shut your mouth, and make “k” noises with your tongue. You can also try clicking to see if that works.
  • Valsalva Maneuver: Try this if you’re still having difficulty: pinch your nose shut your mouth, but instead of swallowing, try blowing out (don’t let any air get out if you can help it). Theoretically, the air you try to blow out should pass through your eustachian tubes and neutralize the pressure.

Devices And Medications

There are devices and medications that are designed to manage ear pressure if none of these maneuvers help. The cause of your barotrauma and it’s intensity will establish if these techniques or medications are appropriate for you.

Special earplugs will do the job in some cases. In other instances, that could mean a nasal decongestant. Your scenario will dictate your remedy.

What’s The Trick?

Finding what works best for you and your eustachian tubes is the real trick.

But you should make an appointment for a consultation if you can’t get rid of that feeling of blockage in your ear. Because loss of hearing can begin this way.

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call Us Today
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