Ears and Air Travel

By: Kelly Warf, Au.D.
Michael Layland, M.D.

You’re all packed and ready for that vacation, but did you pack your ear gear? Quickly ascending and descending at high altitudes causes pressure and discomfort in our ears. Our Eustachian tubes (which connect our ears to the back of the nose and throat) work to equalize the pressure in our ears to the environmental pressure. But when that pressure is quickly changing (e.g., flying, elevators) our bodies have a hard time keeping up. There several things you can do:

  1. Swallowing, yawning, or chewing gum.
    This is the most common practice to equalize pressure. Don’t forget to bring your gum and a bottle of water to sip!
  2. Nasal decongestant spray.
    A quick spray or 2 several minutes prior to take off and landing can clear your nasal cavity for better equalization. Afrin nasal spray is an over-the-counter decongestant.
  3. Decongestant pill.
    Sudafed (over-the-counter) may be recommended. This is not to be used if you have a history of high blood pressure or benign prostate hypertrophy.
  4. Ear planes.
    These ear plugs have a filter to slowly adjust the ear to higher altitudes. This product is available over-the-counter.

To further discuss your options for more comfortable air travel, call our office and schedule your appointment today. Call 847-685-1000

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