Avoiding Ear Pain during the Travel Season

Now that the weather is warming up and the kids will be home for the summer we are starting to the see the beginning of the travel season. Every year, around this time in May more and more patients begin to ask me what they can do to avoid ear pain as they begin to travel and take vacations so I have decided to compile my most effective tips into this week’s post. This stretching of the eardrum can cause pain. The eardrum also cannot vibrate when it is stretched thus causing a decrease in hearing. Thus when flying whether ascending or descending you need to try to keep the pressure equalize via the eustachian tube. Ways to do this are listed below:

Swallow: Frequent swallowing causes the eustachian tube to open more frequently thus helping to keep the pressure equal.
Chewing gum or sucking: For an adult chewing gum or sucking on a hard candy causes a person to salivate and thus swallows more keeping the eustachian tube active.
For Children: With infants their eustachian tubes are narrow and flatter than adults the pressure can be more intense. Ear pain relief drops can be prescribed by a pediatrician before flight as well. Give them a bottle or pacifier to suck on especially on descent. Older children can suck on a sucker, suck through a straw or blow bubbles through a straw to help alleviate ear pain.
Valsalva Maneuver: With a mouthful of air, close your mouth and pinch your nose shut. Gently force air out until ears your ears pop. If you are sick with a cold or allergies, the Valsalva maneuver is not recommended, as it could cause a severe ear infection. Instead, try a lesser known method called the Toynbee maneuver: close your mouth and nose and swallow several times until pressure equalizes.
Do not sleep on ascent and descent
Stay Hydrated: by drinking which also results in swallowing
Earplanes: Filtered earplugs available at drugstores
Nasal Spray: The use of nasal spray and decongestant one hour before landing can be helpful to keep the mucous in the eustachian tube reduced thus the tube remains clear and open.
Head Cold: Do not fly with congestion

If hearing does not return to normal within several days post travel see your physician.