With the holiday season upon us, millions of people throughout the United States will be traveling to visit loved ones by plane, train, boat, and automobile. Ear health is of greater concern for those traveling by air than other modes of transportation. When the plane ascends and descends, many people experience discomfort in their ears known as aeroplane ear.

Aeroplane ear is caused by unequal pressure that builds up around the ear drum. When the plane’s travel causes the outside air pressure to change, the eardrum can be pushed inward, causing sometimes severe discomfort. The static-pressured air inside of the ear, in the Eustachian tubes, needs to be equalized in order to regain balance and relieve the pain.

For most people, equalizing the ears is simple. Gently blowing against a closed nose and mouth usually causes the ears to equalize, causing a popping sensation. Sucking on a piece of hard candy or chewing gum may also help. For those who are more severely affected, decongestants can be taken before the flight to help keep the passageways clear. Air pressure-regulating ear plugs help to slow the pressure change on the outside of the ear, lessening the discomfort.

If you experience extreme pain in your ears while flying, you should seek medical attention as soon as you land.

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