How Flying Affects Your Ears

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The plane is racing down the runway, about to be airborne into the endless sky, you're anxious but excited for the trip you're going on... then boom, you can't hear?

Flying can cause intense pressure in your ears and it can sometimes be extremely painful, not to mention annoying if you're flying internationally. This article tells you all you need to know about flying and your ears.

It's All About the Pressure

When going up in a plane, the air pressure inside the cabin decreases, trapping all the air into your inner ear. To stop the eardrum from bursting, the Eustachian tube is in charge of releasing the air from the inner ear.

It's the exact opposite when the plane is landing. The air pressure in the cabin rises, pushing the eardrum inwards. Because we don't want the eardrum to burst, there has to be the same amount of air inside the inner ear. So instead of forcing the air out, the Eustachian tube is in charge of sucking the air in.

This is what is happening when you experience the 'popping' effect in your ears during a flight. In short, your ears are just doing their job and making sure an equal amount of air is on both sides of the eardrum to prevent it from bursting.

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Preventing the Popping

The good news is, there are a lot of tricks to help prevent or stop the popping sensation. Below is a list of things to try that will help open your Eustachian tube for the air to get in/out faster:

  • Swallowing or yawning
  • Blowing your nose
  • Chewing gum
  • Valsalva maneuver
  • Don't sleep during takeoff/landing (you won't be able to try the above tips)


There are some things that people swear by, but they have never been proven to actually stop or prevent your ears from popping. Putting wet cloths over your ears, cleaning them with ear drops and putting headphones in is not known to solve the problem.

Keep on Poppin'

Now you know, it is totally normal for your ears to pop during a flight and there is no need to worry about it. Keep the simple tips in mind next time you are boarding a flight and if the person in the seat next to you is having a hard time, share your new knowledge with them. Flying can already be stressful, don't let your ears make it worse!

Click here to read why ear infections are more frequent in children!

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