How to Unpop Your Ears After Flying

Written by pamela henman
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How to Unpop Your Ears After Flying
Changes in air pressure can cause pain in the ears. (ear wax image by green 308 from

According to Howard Francis, associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins University, about one-third of flyers experience pain or clogging in their ears when travelling. Commonly referred to as "aeroplane ear," the sensation of pressure in the ear during and after flight is caused by stress exerted on the eardrum and other tissues in the middle ear. According to the Mayo Clinic, sudden changes in air pressure can cause aeroplane ear, but the painful feeling can be eradicated in a few steps.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Gum or hard candy
  • Nasal decongestant pill or spray
  • Ear plugs

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  1. 1

    Pinch your nostrils on both sides and close your mouth.

  2. 2

    Exhale and blow air against your cheeks. You should hear a popping noise, which means the air pressure in your ear is being equalised.

  3. 3

    Repeat periodically, particularly during flight take-off and landing.

  1. 1

    Chew gum or eat hard candy, which will make you swallow more frequently. Swallowing opens the Eustachian tube in your middle ear, which connects the back of the nose to the middle ear. By activating the Eustachian tube, pressure in your ear is equalised. Yawning also triggers the muscle that activates the Eustachian tube.

  2. 2

    Take a decongestant pill or nasal spray about an hour before your flight. According to Health Central, decongestants with oxymetazoline hydrochloride will shrink the membranes in your nasal passages and help your ears pop easily.

  3. 3

    Wear pressure-reducing ear plugs, which can be purchased from most pharmacies and general retailers. The specialised ear plugs restrict airflow to the ear, allowing the inner ear to more smoothly adjust to rapid changes in air pressure.

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