Ears and Flying 



Some people develop ear pain when a plane tries landing. This is caused by unequal pressures that develop on either side of the eardrum as the plane descends. The pain occurs because the small space in the middle ear behind the eardrum is normally filled with air. This air space is connected to the back of the nose by a tiny channel called the Eustachian tube. The air on either side of the eardrum should be at the same pressure. Air pressure is highest near the ground. So as the plane descends, the air pressure becomes higher. This pushes the eardrum inwards which can be painful. To relieve this, the pressure inside the middle ear has to rise quickly too. Air needs to travel up the Eustachian tube into the middle ear to equalise the pressure. The Eustachian tube is normally closed but opens from time to time when we swallow, yawn or chew. In most cases, just normal swallowing and chewing quickly cause air to travel up the Eustachian tube to equalise the pressure. However, the Eustachian tube in some people does not open up easily and so pressure may not be equalised so quickly. To prevent having this pain: 


1. Suck sweets when the plane begins to descend. Air is more likely to flow up the Eustachian tube if you swallow and chew. 


2. Take a deep breath. Then try to breathe out gently with your mouth closed while you have your nose pinched. In this way, no air is blown out but you are gently pushing air into the Eustachian tube. 


3. Do not sleep when the plane is about to land. Ask someone to wake you up. Taking sweets can only be possible when you are awake

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