Many people have trouble with plugging or pain in their ears during airplane rides. Most people have trouble during the plane's descent.
As airplanes descend, the air pressure increases. If you cannot get enough air through your nose and up the Eustachian tube to the middle ear (the space behind the eardrum), a negative pressure is created behind the eardrum, causing pressure and pain.
There are two things you can do to help prevent pressure and pain during flights.
Wear Earplanes, a device similar to an earplug, during the flight to minimize pressure changes. These work well for most people and can be found in most pharmacies next to the noise-protection earplugs. Earplanes work for kids too, and are available in children’s sizes.
For adults, use the decongestant spray oxymetazoline (brand name Afrin) 1 to 2 hours before the airplane is going to land. This helps open the nose and will increase airflow into the Eustachian tube to help equalize ear pressure.
People that have ear trouble every time they fly usually have problems with nasal blockage due to chronic nasal congestion (caused by allergies or non-allergic congestion), structural problems in the nose such as a deviated septum, or both.
Nothing will guarantee that you won't have ear problems when you fly, but Earplanes and Afrin seem to be the best ways to prevent discomfort.
Dr. O’Halloran sees patients in the Faribault, Lakeville and Northfield Clinics. To schedule your appointment, call 952-469-0500.