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3971 Airplane-Ear

Airplane Ear

Airplane Ear

Also known as Ear Barotrauma, Barotitis media or Aerotitis media, Airplane ear is the stress that is exerted on one's eardrum and other middle ear tissues when the air pressures in the middle ear and in the environment are out of balance. One may experience airplane ear when the airplane is taking off or at the end of a flight when the airplane is descending. Fast changes in the altitude can cause air pressure changes thus resulting in airplane ear.

What are the symptoms of Airplane ear?

The signs and symptoms include:

• Feeling of stuffiness or fullness in the ear
• Reasonable discomfort or pain in the ear
• Soft hearing or slight to moderate hearing loss

In case the airplane ear is severe or lasts more than a few hours, an individual may experience:

• Bleeding from the ear
• Pressure in the ear, similar to being underwater
• Vomiting
• Spinning sensation
• Moderate to severe hearing loss
• Ringing sensation in the ear

Airplane ear may be also caused by:

• Scuba diving
• Explosions nearby
• Being slapped or hit on the ear


One can prevent airplane ear by following these simple steps:

• Don't sleep during takeoffs and landings.
• If you have nasal congestion, use an over the counter decongestant nasal spray an hour before takeoff or landing.
• Swallow or yawn during ascent and descent as this activates the muscles that open the Eustachian tubes.
• Don't fly when you have a cold, sinus infection, ear infection or nasal congestion.
• Gently blow, as if blowing nose while pinching nostrils and keeping the mouth closed. This helps to equalize the pressure between the ears and the airplane cabin.
• If you have allergies, take your medication an hour before the flight.
• Consider using filtered earplugs as these slowly equalize the pressure against the eardrum during descent and ascent.

Note, that if the discomfort lasts more than a few hours or if you experience any severe symptoms, seek medical assistance!

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