Regardless of your air travel accommodations one thing you may share in common with the other passengers on your flight is ear discomfort in the form of pressure, popping, or severe pain. Although this is typically just an annoyance it can occasionally become more serious. When this happens it may result in hearing loss which is why you need to take precautions when you travel.
Why Flying Increases Ear Pressure
Flying causes air pressure to fluctuate. While the air pressure inside and outside your middle ear is normally the same the quick change in altitude that occurs when you fly causes results in the air pressure not having enough time to equalize. This is something that’s known throughout the medical world as “ear barotrauma.”
When you’re a passenger on an airplane the pilot will start the plane and it’ll slowly ascend into the air. As this happens the air pressure that’s inside your middle ear will quickly surpass the air pressure that’s on the outside of your ear. This will cause your eardrum (a.k.a. Tympanic membrane) to become swollen outward like a loaf of bread when it’s baking.
Now as the pilot starts to descend the plane for its landing the opposite will occur. The air pressure that’s found within your middle ear cavity will quickly decrease as your eardrum gets sucked inward like a vacuum. This happens because your Eustachian tube has become flat and requires some help so that it can continue working to bring air into your inner ear.
Regardless of whether you’re ascending or descending on a flight when your eardrum becomes stretched it can be painful. This is because your eardrum cannot vibrate. Therefore you’re also likely to experience some hearing loss during this time. In addition, when your Eustachian tube is restricted, pressure builds in the middle ear causing pain.
Tips for Preventing Hearing Loss From Flying
Anyone who’s ever flown on an airplane has felt how the altitude change has impacted their ears. It’s important to equalize this pressure by bringing in as much air as possible. There are a few ways in which you can do this.
When you swallow you may hear a small clicking or popping sound. This is a small bubble moving from the back of your nose to the middle of your ear via your Eustachian tube (what’s responsible for ensuring that the air in your middle ear is continually replenished). Your inner ear’s membranes will then absorb the air and the cycle will begin again. If you can’t continually force yourself to swallow you may want to chew on some gum or suck on a piece of hard candy to stimulate yourself to do so. Another option is to close your mouth, pinch your nose shut with your fingers then gently force air through your nose (a.k.a. The Valsalva maneuver). Regardless of what you do, these things will help you so you don’t suffer from hearing loss.
Don’t Risk Hearing Loss
If you’re sick with some type of congestion you really should consider changing your travel plans if at all possible. Not only will your fellow passengers appreciate the fact that you won’t get them sick but it’s also possible that your Eustachian tube may become blocked by you being sick. When this happens the equalization of pressure can’t happen and air travel could result in your eardrum rupturing or your ear becoming severely infected – both things which can cause hearing loss or permanent damage to your ear.
If your hearing doesn’t quickly return to normal within a few days after your flight you should see Countryside Hearing Aid Services in Clearwater and Pinellas County.
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