Airplane ear refers to discomfort, pain, or blockage that some people feel during an airplane flight.
Most people who fly experience airplane ear at some point.
It is due to the difference in air pressure outside and inside the ear.
It is most common during takeoff or landing, when outside air pressure changes rapidly.
The Eustachian tube connects the ear and throat, opens to allow air to flow into your middle ear, so the pressure on both sides of your eardrum is balanced.
Rapidly changing air pressure blocks the Eustachian tube, causing airplane ear.
Eustachian tube blockage is most common in small children as their Eustachian tubes are narrower.
The process usually clears on its own or with medications such as decongestants or antihistamines.
Rarely, surgery is necessary.
Symptoms associated with AE include:
discomfort, pain, pressure in one or both ears. and rarely dizziness, temporary hearing loss, ringing in the ears, or, rarely, bleeding from the ear.
Risk factors: Congestion from colds or allergies, ear infection, congenital blockage of the Eustachian tube, small children, smoking, having a cleft palate or cleft lip
Diagnosed by history of flying and symptoms.
Treatment of AE may include:
Chewing gum or sucking on candy
Over-the-counter pain relievers
Decongestant nasal spray
Oral decongestants or antihistamines
Antibiotics, if ear infection develops.
Surgery: incision is made in the eardrum to relieve pressure and remove fluid blocking the Eustachian tube
Preventing AE: self-care strategies before takeoff or during descent, can help prevent or relieve airplane ear, by forcing air through the Eustachian tube to clear it.
Swallowing often-chewing gum, sucking on a hard candy.
Having a baby suck on a pacifier or bottle.
During descent, avoiding sleep, which is associated with swallowing less.
Deep inhalation and, pinching nostrils shut, to blow the air out of the nose.
Some can take a decongestant or use nasal spray an hour before descent.
AE occurs most commonly during landing, as air pressure increases as you descend in altitude.
The increasing pressure pushes on the side of the eardrum, causing discomfort or pain.
With AE the ears may feel clogged and sounds muffled.
For more severe AE there may be hearing loss, ringing, dizziness, and severe pain.
Airplane ear can also occur when riding in an elevator in a tall building or driving in the mountains, or taking a
A severe case of airplane ear can bruise or rupture the eardrum.