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Popping is not just for Popcorn

Do you frequently fly? Do your ears hurt as you go up in a plane as if they’re clogged and popping? Congratulations! You’re perfectly normal and just one of the million people who have experienced and still experience this.

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This ear popping phenomenon is known as barotrauma in the medical world. Rapid changes in the air pressure inside the plane drastically increase the pressure in our middle ears. The Eustachian tube connecting the middle ear to the pharynx is responsible for keeping the pressure on both sides of the eardrum about equal. And so when the Eustachian tube doesn’t function properly due to the pressure changes, it affects the middle ear thus the popping noise. Alright, I don’t wish for your ears nor eyes to bleed or pop with these medical explanation so let’s find out how ear popping can be treated.

Unfortunately, there are no known remedies that can totally prevent this from happening but some people managed to find ways to at least lessen the pain and discomfort before ear popping moments.

  • Chewing gums or sucking on sweets are the most common way of swallowing activities which keeps the Eustachian tube active.
  • Yawn but don’t sleep before and after descent as it only keeps you from coping up with the changes in the air pressure.
  • Pinch your nose and blow but gently with your mouth closed as if you have colds. You may need to do this several times before your ears pop.
  • For mothers with their babies, give them pacifier or a bottle of milk to keep them from experiencing barotrauma. But as the saying goes, breastfeeding is still best for babies.
  • Bring small balloons if you have toddlers as blowing activities can stop them from complaining of ear discomfort.
  • Seek advice from your pharmacist on what decongestants can be used during flights. They not only shrink internal membranes, they also make your ear pops easily. Limit the use of nasal sprays though because they may cause more congestion.
  • Don’t fly or reschedule your flight if you have colds as it makes ear popping worse.
  • Using ear plugs can be a bit of help too.

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Taking photos during flight won’t help but at least makes you forget that your ears are clogged. ☺

Ears that fail to pop can not only cause pain but may also lead to temporary deafness. So next time you fly and experience this, you now know what to do.

See, not only popcorn pops because ears do as well. Happy flying!

Kaiz is a stay-at-home mom and currently works as an Operations Specialist for a software engineering company based in the US.

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