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The Important Medical Reason Why You Should Always Pop Your Ears on a Flight

Airports + Flying
by Olivia Harden Jul 25, 2022

Whether you like it or not, popping your ears while you climb to 10,000 feet is inevitable. If you’re like me, the pop comes relatively quickly, For others, it can be difficult, and the sensation may be painful. But why do they need to pop in the first place? Morgan, a first officer and Boeing 737 pilot who also showed the view of Denver’s bathrooms from the runway, posted a video about why you should never suppress the need to pop and some ways to do it that help relieves the pressure quickly.

@almostcaptainmorgan Reply to @ladyhawkuk Tips and tricks from an airline pilot if your ears pop when you fly! #airlinepilot #traveltiktok #flyingtips #traveltips ♬ original sound – Morgan

Climbing or descending on an airplane causes the pressure in your middle ear to be different than the pressure of your environment, causing stress in your eardrum. The condition is called airplane ear (also known as ear barotrauma, barotitis media or aerotitis media), according to the Mayo Clinic. You might experience frustration because one ear pops but not the other. While airplane ear usually only causes moderate discomfort or pain and possibly temporary issues with hearing, severe cases can result in more severe levels of pain, ringing and bleeding in the ears, and vertigo.

Small children are more likely to have airplane ear because the eustachian tubes in their ears are smaller, making it difficult for the air to pass. Suggestions for them are to encourage them to swallow. You’re also more at risk when your sinuses are clogged. Other tips include avoiding sleep until after takeoff and before landing, using decongestant pills if you’re able to, taking allergy medication, or investing in filtered earplugs.

So while suppressing the need to pop might be tempting, it’s best to focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.

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