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How to Prevent Ear Pain While Flying

Use these tips and enjoy your flight without pain!

Learn how to prevent ear pain while flying in this blog post!

Whether you’re embarking on a vacation or traveling for business, flying can be an exciting experience. However, for many people, the joy of flying can be dampened by the discomfort of ear pain — particularly during takeoff and landing. 

In this article, we’ll explore how to prevent ear pain while flying so you can confidently board your next plane ready for an enjoyable flight.

Take note of these eight tips:

  1. Swallow and yawn
  2. Perform the Valsalva maneuver
  3. Wear filtered earplugs
  4. Stay hydrated
  5. Avoid sleeping during descent
  6. Consider taking decongestants 
  7. Try an ear pressure regulation device
  8. Consult a hearing health professional

Let’s learn more about how to prevent ear pain while flying with these tips below.

Swallow and yawn

The primary source of “airplane ear” is when your ear experiences stress from sudden pressure changes in your environment. One of the most effective ways to prevent ear pain during altitude changes is to swallow or yawn. These actions help open up the eustachian tubes, which should help equalize the pressure in your ears and prevent or alleviate discomfort. You can make this habit feel more natural by chewing gum or sucking on hard candy during takeoff and landing. If you don’t have gum or candy, try taking sips of water or simulating chewing and swallowing.

Perform the Valsalva maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver is another technique that can help equalize the pressure in your ears. To perform this maneuver, close your mouth, pinch your nostrils shut, and gently exhale while keeping your mouth and nose closed. This action increases the pressure in the back of your throat and can help open up the Eustachian tubes, forcing air to flow through them.

Wear filtered earplugs

Filtered earplugs for flying, also known as pressure-regulating earplugs or aviation earplugs, are specialized earplugs designed to help reduce the impact of changes in air pressure during flights. They have a unique design with a small filter or vent that allows air to flow in and out of the ear canal, helping to gradually balance the pressure between the outside environment and the middle ear. This should help you avoid that “popping” sensation from sudden clogging and unclogging during your flight.

Stay hydrated

Dehydration can worsen potential ear pain during flights, especially since the ear uses fluid to function correctly. It’s important to stay hydrated before, during, and after your flight to ensure optimal comfort. Drink plenty of water and avoid consuming too much alcohol and caffeine, as these can contribute to dehydration. Bring your own water bottle onto the plane so you aren’t limited to cups from the drink cart — in most airports, you can fill your empty bottle up once you’re through security.

Avoid sleeping during descent

Sleeping during the descent can make it difficult for your body to adjust naturally to the changing pressure. If you can, try to stay awake and be mindful of any pressure changes in your ears. By remaining alert, you can actively monitor your level of ear discomfort and prevent it from escalating by employing earlier techniques like chewing gum and trying the Valsalva maneuver.

Consider taking decongestants 

If you have a history of ear pain while flying or are prone to sinus congestion, you may want to consider using nasal decongestants before your flight. These medications can help reduce nasal congestion and keep your Eustachian tubes open and clear. However, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before using any medication, as they can advise you on the appropriate usage for your needs and any potential side effects or interactions.

Try an ear pressure regulation device

Beyond earplugs, there are a few other types of devices you can use to help regulate ear pressure. For example, you can ask your doctor about ear-popping devices that use a steady flow of air to unclog the eustachian tubes and relieve pressure.

Consult a hearing health professional

If you frequently experience severe ear pain while flying or have a history of ear problems, it’s even more important to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide personalized advice and recommend specific measures of how to prevent ear pain while flying. In some cases, they may suggest using ear tubes or other interventions to protect you from complications like ear infections or hearing loss.

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge you need for a pain-free flight, it’s time to book some travel! Brush up on these tips to plan your next trip.