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Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA

Man making his ears pop on an airplane.

Ever have difficulties with your ears on an airplane? Where suddenly, your ears seem to be clogged? Your neighbor probably suggested chewing gum. And you probably don’t even know why this works sometimes. If your ears feel plugged, here are a few tips to make your ears pop.

Pressure And Your Ears

Your ears, as it turns out, do an incredibly good job at controlling pressure. Thanks to a handy little piece of anatomy called Eustachian tubes, the pressure inside of your ears is able to regulate, adjust, and equalize to the pressure in the outside world. Usually.

There are some instances when your Eustachian tubes may have problems adjusting, and inequalities in the pressure of the air can cause issues. There are occasions when you might be suffering from an uncomfortable and sometimes painful affliction known as barotrauma which happens when there is an accumulation of fluid at the back of the ears or when you’re sick. At higher altitudes, you feel a small amount of this exact condition.

The majority of the time, you won’t recognize differences in pressure. But you can experience pressure, pain, and crackling if your Eustachian tubes aren’t working efficiently or if the pressure changes are abrupt.

What is The Source of That Crackling?

Hearing crackling inside of your ears is pretty uncommon in an everyday setting, so you might be understandably curious about the cause. The sound itself is commonly compared to a “Rice Krispies” style sound. Usually, air moving around blockages of the eustachian tubes is the cause of this crackling. The cause of those blockages can range from congestion to Eustachian tube failure to unregulated changes in air pressure.

Equalizing Ear Pressure

Typically, any crackling will be caused by a pressure difference in your ears (particularly if you’re flying). In that circumstance, you can use the following technique to neutralize ear pressure:

  • Toynbee Maneuver: This is really just a fancy way of swallowing. With your mouth shut, pinch your nose and swallow. If you take water in your mouth (which will help you keep your mouth closed) it may help.
  • Try Swallowing: Pressure in the eustachian tubes will be equalized when the muscles used to swallow are triggered. This also sheds light on the common advice to chew gum on a plane; the chewing makes you swallow, and swallowing is what causes the ears to equalize.
  • Frenzel Maneuver: Okay, try this tactic. With your mouth closed and your nose pinched, try making “k” sounds with your tongue. You can also try clicking to see if that works.
  • Valsalva Maneuver: If you’re still having trouble, try this: pinch your nose shut your mouth, but instead of swallowing, try blowing out (don’t let any air escape if you can help it). Theoretically, the pressure should be neutralized when the air you try to blow out passes over your eustachian tubes.
  • Yawn: For the same reason that swallowing works, try yawning. (If you’re having difficulty forcing a yawn, just imagine someone else yawning and you’ll likely start to yawn yourself.)

Devices And Medications

There are devices and medications that are made to manage ear pressure if none of these maneuvers work. The cause of your barotrauma and it’s severity will establish if these techniques or medications are correct for you.

On occasion that could mean special earplugs. Nasal decongestants will be appropriate in other situations. It all depends on your scenario.

What’s The Trick?

The real trick is finding out what works for you, and your eustachian tubes.

But you should schedule an appointment to see us if you can’t shake that feeling of blockage in your ear. Because loss of hearing can begin this way.

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call or Text Us