Prevent ‘airplane ear’

Created date

July 28th, 2017
Young girl on airplane in discomfort, holding her ears.

When many people fly, it’s for pleasure—a vacation or to visit relatives. But a bad case of “airplane ear” can make getting to your destination an unpleasant experience.

Also called barotrauma, barotitis media, or aerotitis media, this condition causes ear pain usually on takeoff or landing. It occurs when stress is exerted on your eardrum and other parts of your middle ear when the air pressure within your middle ear and the air pressure in the environment are imbalanced. Along with pain, you may experience a sensation of stuffy ears, dizziness, and even hearing loss.

As you age, your middle ear may have increasing difficulty compensating for these changes in pressure, thus you may experience airplane ear more often.

Self-treatment measures include chewing gum, sucking on candy, and yawning. You can also try inhaling, then exhaling slowly while holding your nostrils closed (also keep your mouth closed). If these tricks don’t work, talk to your doctor. Medications such as decongestants or steroids may be necessary. To avoid drug interactions, avoid over-the-counter remedies until your doctor gives you the green light.