Ears Popping when Flying

Introduction:
The ear consists of three chambers:

 

English: The middle ear : 1)Eardrum 2)Ossicles...
English: The middle ear : 1)Eardrum 2)Ossicles 3)Eustachian tube 4)Tensor tympani Français : Oreille moyenne : 1)Tympan 2)Chaine ossiculaire 3)Trompe d’Eustache 4)Muscle du marteau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

1 – skull
2 – ear canal
3 – pinna
4 – tympanum
5 – fenestra ovalis
6 – malleus
7 – incus
8 – stapes
9 – labyrinth
10 – cochlea
11 – auditory nerve
12 – eustachian tube

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•The outer ear canal which leads up to the ear drum.
•The middle ear chamber behind the drum which is filled with air.
•The very specialised inner ear.

The air in the middle ear is constantly being absorbed by the membranes that line the cavity, so the internal pressure can easily drop, putting tension on the tissues there. Fortunately, air is frequently resupplied to the middle ear during the process of swallowing.

Usually when you swallow, a small bubble of air passes from your throat or back of your nose, through a narrow tube known as the Eustachian tube which is usually closed, into your middle ear. As it does this, it makes a tiny click or popping sound.

This action keeps the air pressure on both sides of the eardrum about equal. If the air pressure isn’t equal, for example if the Eustachian tube isn’t working efficiently or if pressures suddenly change, the ear feels blocked or uncomfortable.

The pocket of air in the middle ear is particularly vulnerable to the changes in air pressure as you go up in a plane.

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The higher the plane, the lower the air pressure around you, although inside the cabin you’re protected, to some extent, from these pressure changes. Pressure in the middle ear remains higher until the Eustachian tube opens up to allow the pressure to equalise. Until this happens the relatively lower pressure outside the middle ear pulls the ear drum and tissues of the middle ear outwards, making them feel very uncomfortable.

The eardrum is stretched and can’t vibrate properly, so sounds become muffled. When the Eustachian tube opens, air travels out from the middle ear, making a popping noise as pressure equalises.

During the descent in a plane, the opposite happens as pressure builds up outside the ear, pushing the eardrum inwards.

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Abnormal pressure can develop in the middle ear, pulling in or stretching the ear drum, when the Eustachian tube is blocked for other reasons – as the result of a bad cold, for example, or a nasal allergy – or because it’s narrow as a result of childhood ear infections.

Treatment and recovery:
Flyers often experience what is referred to as ear barotrauma or airplane ear. This condition is caused by the change in pressure between the inside and outside of the eardrum that causes the eustachian tubes inside the ear to swell. The popping noise in your ear is the sound of the eustachian tube opening. There are some simple tips that can be used to pop your ears in an effort to ease the pain and discomfort associated with airplane ear.
The following can help to relieve the problem:

•Swallowing activates the muscle that opens the Eustachian tube, and you swallow more often when chewing gum or sucking sweets so try this just before and during descent.
•Yawning is an even stronger activator of the muscles.
•Avoid sleeping during descent, because you may not be swallowing often enough to keep up with the pressure changes.

The most forceful way to unblock your ears is to pinch your nostrils, take in a mouthful of air and use your cheek and throat muscles to force the air into the back of your nose, as if you were trying to blow your thumb and fingers off your nostrils. You may have to repeat this several times before your ears pop.

Decongestants shrink internal membranes and make your ears pop more easily. Ask your pharmacist for advice. However, you should avoid making a habit of using nasal sprays, because after a few days they may cause more congestion than they relieve.

Few more Tips to releave :

Eat Candy or Chew Gum
One of the easiest ways to pop your ears is to chew a piece of gum or suck on a piece of hard candy. This forces your ears to pop on purpose by allowing the muscles around your eustachian tube to open. The movement of the jaw equalizes the pressure between the inside and outside of the eardrum upon the opening of the eustachian tube.

Ear Plugs
Purchase earplugs that are specifically designed for flying. The earplugs restrict the flow of air into your inner ear, allowing it more time to keep up with the rapid change in pressure. Earplugs can be purchased at your local pharmacy or drug store.

Breathing
There is a special way you can breathe to release the pressure in your ears while flying. Inhale, and then gently exhale while holding the nostrils closed and the mouth shut. Repeat several times, especially during descent, to equalize the pressure between your ears and the airplane cabin.

Use A Decongestant
Purchase an oral or nasal spray decongestant. A decongestant can be used before, during, or after the flight to relieve any built-up nasal congestion, and to open the eustachian tube. For best results, use a spray decongestant 30 minutes prior to landing. If is best to take an oral decongestant 30 minutes to an hour prior to your plane taking off.

Tips For Babies
The best way to control the change in pressure between the inside and outside of a baby’s eardrum is to have the child suck on a bottle or pacifier during take off and landing. It is also important to make sure that a baby does not sleep during descent.

To learn few more Tips You may click to see :How to Keep My Ears From Popping While Flying

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/earspopping.shtml
http://www.eustachian-tube.net/EUSTACHIAN-TUBE.html
http://www.ehow.com/list_6821346_tips-pop-ears-flying.html

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ear-anatomy.png

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