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Ear Pain

Preventing In-Flight Ear Pain

Normally the pressure in your ears is the same as the air pressure outside, but when pressure changes, it can result in ear pain. Your ears cannot adjust to this change fast enough leading to air and fluid being trapped in the middle ear.

Hearing loss or a ruptured eardrum can occur in severe cases. This is what happens on airplanes, as the air pressure changes quickly as the plane ascends or descends. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of this occurring when you fly.

Ear Pain Risk Factors

Although ear pain caused by flying can happen to anyone, there are specific risk factors that increase your likelihood of having in flight ear pain or hearing loss. Flying when you have a cold, sinus infection, or hay fever, flying with an ear infection, sleeping on ascent or descent, and having a small eustachian tube, such as in infants and toddlers, can all increase your chances of experiencing ear pain when you fly.


  • Yawn, chew or swallow during the plane’s ascent and descent. This opens up your Eustachian tube and can help alleviate pressure.
  • Use the valsalva maneuver. This is a form of hearing care for many purposes, including flying. PInch the nostrils closed, close your mouth, and then blow air out your nostrils like you are blowing your nose.
  • Use filtered ear plugs during ascent and descent. These help to equalize ear pressure during ascent and descent.
  • Hearing care requires you to be awake during take off and landing so that you can perform these techniques.
  • If you are taking allergy medication, take it one hour before flying.
  • Take a nasal decongestant 30 minutes before flying.
  • Do not fly if at all possible if you have a cold, sinus infection, or ear infection.

For Children

If traveling with children, you can help them to use these techniques. You can also encourage them to blow bubble through a straw, blow their nose, and you can ask your doctor about prescribing ear drops for the flight which offer pain relief and help to regulate pressure in the ears.

Overall, it is important to know that the ear pain associated with flying can be prevented by remembering to apply these basic prevention tips. This means you must think ahead so you will have the necessary supplies on hand and can take any medication before getting on the plane.

Need more information on how to prevent or alleviate ear pain? Contact Chicago Beltone today.