Ears and Flying
Did you ever wonder why you feel a pomping sensation in your ears when the plane is landing and if not feel pomping your ear is aching. Did you realize why children cry when plane starts landing.
Ear is basicly divided into three parts:
a)External ear: From auricle to the ear drum.
b)Middle ear: Air space between ear drum and internal ear. Three ossicles and air is present here.
c)Internal ear: It is a bony part that contains hearing and balance nerves.
Middle ear is the part that is affected while flying. This air space is affected by changes in the air pressure.
There is a pipe between nasopharynx and middle ear called “Eustachian tube”. When we swallow air goes to the middle ear from this tube. This air is sucked by mucosa of middle ear but every time we swallow air enters to the middle ear; acvitiy and the pressure between each part of the ear drum becomes equal. If the pressure is not equal you feel tension in your ear.
What causes blockage of “Eustachian tube?”
The most common cause is common cold. Sinusitis, allergy are also the frequent causes.
Middle ear infections, smoking, gastroesophageal reflux are other causes of obstruction.
Eustachian tube is narrower, smaller, have different angle in children, therefore middle ear problems are seen more frequently in children.
How Flying Cause Ear Problem?
During flying air pressure changes, these changes should be balanced by the middle ear. Pressure change is biggest while landing.
New generation airplanes are good for pressure changes.
Indeed pressure changes can occur while diving or in fast accelerating elevators.
How can you protect your ears from blocking?
Swallowing decreases pressure difference, yawning is even better. Try not to sleep while landing, and chewing a gum may help.
If these precautions do not work:
1)Close your nasal alae strongly
2)Take a strong breath through your mouth
3)Try to blow this air out while your mouth and nose is closed.
Then air can be directed to Eustachian tube and you can feel a pomping sensation in your ears. You may need to do this a lot of time while landing.
Babies cannot do that, so it is better for them not to sleep while landing and suck something.
Which precautions you should take?
If you have upper respiratory infection, sinusitis, allergy you might do better to postpone the flight
If you have an ear treatment recently, admit to your doctor.
Experienced passengers use nasal decongestants one hour before landing. These drugs may enhance airflow to the middle ear. Allergic patients should take their allergy drugs also.
Decongestant drugs should be carefully taken by patients having hypertension, glaucoma, prostate and heart problems. Pregnant women should consult their physicians also.
What to do if ears do not open?
You can do “Valsalva maneuver” and continue decongestant drugs. If they are still close you should admit to an ear doctor.