Ouch! Be careful of airplane ear.
Attention frequent fliers! Have you or your colleagues ever experienced any ear discomfort or pain while traveling for work? Chances are you all had airplane ear, also known as barotrauma, barotitis media or aerotitis media. According to the Mayo Clinic, airplane ear occurs when air pressure in the middle ear and environment become out of balance and put stress on the eardrum and ear tissues. Many of us have experienced airplane ear during takeoffs and landings with rapid changes in altitude and air pressure.
Common symptoms of airplane ear include moderate discomfort or pain in one or both ears, as well as a stuffy or full feeling. It may also include muffled hearing or slight to moderate hearing loss. In order to relieve airplane ear, you must clear the blockages from your Eustachian tubes (the small passages connecting the middle ear space to the back of your throat).
Protect yourself and your fellow workers by learning to “pop” your ears. The Mayo Clinic recommends yawning, swallowing, chewing gum, eating hard candy or opening your mouth wide and moving your jaw side to side. You can also pinch your nostrils, take a mouthful of air and exert air pressure—like you’re blowing your nose- but gently—until you hear a pop. Avoid excessive force to prevent any damage to your eardrums!
The Mayo Clinic also recommends frequent fliers take a decongestant or use nasal spray if they continue to experience symptoms after landing. If the airplane ear is severe and includes symptoms such as pain, moderate to severe hearing loss, ringing, spinning, vomiting from vertigo or bleeding, individuals should contact their doctor or local healthcare providers. For additional information about airplane ear, visit mayoclinic.org.