People with a very marked sensitivity to variations in pressure usually suffer from discomfort in the ears when traveling by plane, and also when traveling by car, when going up or down a mountain pass.

"The pain and other discomforts usually disappear within a few hours, but there may be an effusion of the ear fluid, a hemorrhage, or a perforation of the eardrum in the most serious cases"

During the summer holidays, we travel more frequently, and we can suffer from ear problems -which are known as barotraumatisms- as a result of the aforementioned pressure changes. Although they are not usually serious, they are very annoying, and it is convenient to take precautions so that the desired vacations do not make us bitter.

These disorders cause symptoms such as pain or a temporary loss of hearing, and although they usually disappear within a few hours, sometimes the discomfort is prolonged and there may be a leakage of the ear fluid, a hemorrhage, or even a perforation of the eardrum. more serious cases.

Although at present the cabins of the airplanes are pressurized precisely to avoid the sudden variations of pressure, it is something that is not always achieved and it is easy for the ears to be stuck, especially when the plane is descending. If you also suffer from allergies or have a cold, and you have a stuffy nose, your ears are even more likely to be affected by pressure changes. Therefore, it is best that you take some simple precautions to make the trip more comfortable.

Tips to keep your ears healthy

Here are some tips so that your ears do not give you problems when traveling:

  • If you suffer sinusitis or allergy, or have just had the bad luck to catch a cold just before traveling, it is convenient to consult a specialist, who will explain what you can do to prevent hearing disorders, or prescribe a medication to decongest your nose if you think it is convenient.
  • Chewing gum, drinking water and yawning during the flight will help you activate the muscles that are responsible for the opening of the eustachian tube and your ears are uncovered.
  • It is better not to fall asleep during takeoff and landing.
  • To prevent tamponade in young children it is advisable that during the descent they have their pacifier, or give them some liquid to increase the swallowing.
  • If you notice discomfort in the ears during the trip, you can do the following: cover your nose with your fingers and breathe in through your mouth, expelling the air gently through your nose pressing with the muscles of the throat and cheeks to separate the fingers from the nose and that the offices are opened so that the air comes out. A click in the ears will tell you that you have succeeded. You can repeat this exercise during the descent, but always do it gently so as not to damage the eardrums.
  • If the discomfort continues after the trip, visit an otolaryngologist.

Source: GAES Auditory Centers

Ear Problems and Air Travel - Boys Town Ear, Nose & Throat Institute (November 2019).