The plane starts to descend smoothly, but your ears start paining. You hear a ringing in your ears and sometimes your ears get clogged too, just like a nose block. There are many instances during which our ears get clogged due to factors both outside and inside the ear. Anyone can suffer from blocked ears, but children are likelier to suffer from blocked ears, especially during cold. Some of the common reasons for clogged ears include:
A stuffy nose can mean a lot more than a constant headache, fatigue and body pain. It can also cause pain, dizziness and discomfort to your ears. A stuffy nose can lead to stuffy ears because the swollen membranes block the opening of the Eustachian tube. Sinus and ears are connected in your head and the stuffiness can cause pressure in your ears. Try to use nasal sprays, humidifiers, decongestants, pain relievers and other home remedies to treat your sinusitis. Sinus can make flying a painful affair. Don’t wait for the ear pain to strike before trying to relieve pressure. Use a nasal spray, oral decongestant or pills at least 30 minutes before your flight journey to clear off your blocked nose.
The Eustachian tube is a membrane-lined tube that connects the nose with the middle ear. Air in the middle ear is maintained is being absorbed by its membranous lining and supplied again by the Eustachian tube. This maintains air pressure on both sides of the eardrum and you get an ear block when this air pressure is not equal.
Flying high includes rapid changes in air pressure. The Eustachian tube opens frequently and wide enough to equalize the pressure changes, especially when the plane is landing. This is because the earth’s atmospheric pressure is higher and when we land from a low-pressure zone to a high-pressure zone, we need to be much more cautious. This is seen not only during flight journeys but also among deep-sea divers, swimmers who dive down to the bottom of the pool and even while riding the elevators. Divers and pilots are taught to equalize air pressure and it is possible for anyone to learn the tactic too.
Medically termed as barotrauma of the ear, almost 5% of adults and 25% of children who fly get their ears blocked, according to a research published in a famous journal. But some other sources quote that almost 20% of adults and 55% of children experience this pain.
The Big Question: Why?
The middle ear connects to the environment through the Eustachian tube. This narrow channel runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose. The Eustachian tube equalizes pressure between the ear and the back of the nose. But what happens during air travel is that, the environmental pressure inside the plane changes rapidly, during both taking off and landing, and the Eustachian tube may not be able to keep up. This creates a pressure difference between the cabin pressure and the middle ear and affects mostly children, infants, people suffering from cold, allergies or those whose Eustachian tubes don’t work properly.
‘How’ To Solve This!
Swallowing helps to unblock ears during air travel as it activates the muscles that open the Eustachian tube. Chewing a gum or sucking on candies prove to be helpful before takeoff and during landing. You can even purposefully yawn to unblock your ear but never fall asleep as you would not swallow as much as you do while being awake.
If yawning or swallowing doesn’t help, close your nostrils with your fingers. Take a mouthful of air and direct the air to the back of your nose (as though you are blowing the nose gently). This can make you feel a buildup of pressure but take care to never let the air out your mouth. Oral or nasal decongestants can help to shrink mucous membranes, including those of the back of the nose and the Eustachian tubes. Although decongestant tablets and sprays can be purchased easily, it is recommended that people with irregular heart rhythm, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, heart disease and excessive nervousness avoid it.
Babies cannot do any of these and the only way to pop their ears is to help them with a bottle or pacifier. Suckling milk or a pacifier relieves a blocked ear and ensure to never let the baby fall asleep during ascend or descend. More children are vulnerable to blockages as their Eustachian tubes are narrower than in adults.
Ways to Treat Clogged Ears
Earwax accumulation is common and it forms a barrier between the opening of the ear and the inner ear. It helps to block foreign objects from entering the ear and serves as a defense mechanism. But sometimes, the glands that create earwax sometimes overdo it and this accumulation can cause the wax to become hard. This buildup can block the entire Eustachian tube as well. Common signs of earwax accumulation include a ringing sound in the ears, earache and feeling dizzy. Ear drops are the most commonly used treatment procedure for clearing away the excess wax. Please don’t try to dig your ears by using cotton swabs as these can push the earwax deeper into the ear.
Any allergy or infection can cause a blocked ear which can also be the result of a runny nose, sinusitis, coughing, sore throat or fever. Here again, you can try steaming, yawning, swallowing, chewing or gently blow the nose with the nostrils shut until a popping sound is heard. Read more about allergies and infections that are bound to hit individuals during the cold winter at www.firsteatright.com.
Meeting a Doctor
It is advisable to meet a doctor if home remedies don’t work or if blocked ears are accompanied by symptoms such as fever, pain, hearing loss, failure to unclog or refusal to clear on their own. Rarely, the clogging might be due to acoustic neuroma, a benign growth that can pressurize the ear and close the Eustachian tubes of the ear. If this is the root cause, the physician will remove the growth through surgery.
Clogged ears are not something dangerous and it depends on the person involved to abstain from making it a dangerous affair. Most people can relieve clogged ears using home remedies and when this is not possible, it is advisable that the individual meets a physician and gets it treated.
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