If your eardrum is damaged by ear popping, this condition is called barotrauma. Most of the time, our eardrums don't burst due to popping but ear popping can certainly get your attention when it occurs. Sometimes you may be extremely grateful that your ear has popped because it relieves built-up pressure in the ear, which can cause discomfort and the inability to hear.
Generally, ear pressure and the subsequent ear popping aren't serious problems but on occasion this can develop into an acute or chronic problem when it is occurring too often. When this happens, an ear infection, a perforated eardrum and loss of hearing can result.
When there are differences in the pressure outside of the eardrum and inside the eardrum, ear popping can occur. According to Dr. Andrew Weil of Drweil.com, changing ear pressure can occur when you are swimming underwater, travelling at high altitudes or flying in an aeroplane.
When the Eustachian Tube Is Blocked
The ear and the back of the nose and upper throat are connected by the Eustachian tube. Blockage of the Eustachian tube can cause popping of the ear as well as a clicking sound, a tickle in the ear and the feeling of fullness in the ear, according to Medicine.net.com. The tube can be blocked if you are having a sinus flare-up or allergies. An enlarged adenoid can also result in blockage. In a rare case, blockage can be the result of tumours or masses that are located in the base of the skull. The clicking noise that you hear in your ear may be due to springy cartilage that surrounds the tube and which clicks particularly loud when the tube opens and closes.
What To Do
If your ears are full of pressure, it helps to swallow or yawn because this opens the Eustachian tube. When you open the tube as such, this enables air to flow out of or into the middle ear, which equalises the pressure on the eardrum. Library.thinkquest.org explains that the Eustachian tube serves as a pressure valve. When the tube opens that's when you feel the pop. You may also hear your ears making a clicking nose when you swallow because a bubble of air has come from the back of your nose and has situated itself in your middle ear. To manage this, the bubble has passed through the Eustachian tube, which is about the size of a pencil lead and is lined with membranes, and travelled into the middle ear.
Dr. Weil notes that ear popping may occur because of allergy or sinus-related conditions or from a upper respiratory infection. If you can't get relief by yawning, sniffing and swallowing, he recommends gargling warm salt water, which should clear the Eustachian tubes. Chewing gum or sucking candy may help. Try an antihistamine or a nasal decongestant and see if that eliminates the problem. If not, see a doctor.