How to Fly With Blocked Ears

Written by jennie dalcour
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How to Fly With Blocked Ears
The changing of air pressure in an aeroplane can cause ear pain. (Empty aeroplane seats image by TekinT from

While flying is convenient and commonplace, there are some risks to flying with blocked ears. Barotrauma, or aeroplane ear, results from the changing air pressure during flight and can be quite uncomfortable. Instead of staying home, you can easily adjust the pressure in your ears, increasing your comfort during the flight.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Decongestants (optional)
  • Gum
  • Crunchy snacks
  • Water

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  1. 1

    Check with your doctor if you experience blocked ears before travelling. An ear infection or other disease can worsen with air travel. Even if there is no sign of infection, you may wish to purchase decongestants to take the day before and the day of travel. Decongestants relieve the pressure causing the blocked sensation.

  2. 2

    Chew gum or crunchy snacks during the flight. Chewing and frequently swallowing opens the Eustachian tubes that adjust to changing air pressure and relieve blocked ears. Yawning and drinking water have the same effect.

  3. 3

    Perform the Valsalva's manoeuvre by pinching your nose with your thumb and forefinger, while closing your mouth and blowing hard. This procedure pops the Eustachian tubes open, allowing the ear to equalise the air pressure. Repeat the Valsalva's manoeuvre every few minutes until ears are clear.

Tips and warnings

  • Stay awake during take-off and landing because those are the times the ears are more likely to hurt because of rapidly changing air pressure.
  • Please see a doctor for any severe pain before or after flight.

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