Have you ever been on a plane and you start to have issues with ear pressure? Where your ears suddenly feel clogged? Someone you know may have recommended chewing gum. And while that works sometimes, I bet you don’t recognize why. Here are a few tips for making your ears pop when they feel blocked.
Pressure And Your Ears
Your ears, as it turns out, do an extremely good job at controlling pressure. Thanks to a useful little piece of anatomy called Eustachian tubes, the pressure inside of your ears is able to regulate, adjust, and equalize to the pressure in the outside world. Usually.
Inequalities in the pressure of the air can cause problems in situations where your Eustachian tubes are not adjusting properly. If you’re ill, for example, or there is a lot of fluid accumulation in the back of your ears, you might start dealing with something called barotrauma, an unpleasant and often painful sensation in the ears caused by pressure difference. At higher altitudes, you experience a small amount of this exact situation.
The majority of the time, you won’t detect changes in pressure. But when those differences are sudden, or when your Eustachian tubes aren’t working quite right, you can feel pressure, pain, and even crackling inside of your ears.
What is The Source of That Crackling?
You might become curious where that crackling is coming from since it’s not common in everyday situations. The sound is frequently compared to a “Rice Krispies” type of noise. Usually, air moving around obstructions of the eustachian tubes is the cause of this crackling. Unregulated changes in air pressure, failure of the eustachian tubes, or even congestion can all be the reason for those blockages.
Equalizing Ear Pressure
Any crackling, particularly if you’re at high altitudes, will usually be caused by pressure imbalances. And if that takes place, there are several ways to bring your inner ear and outer ear back into air-pressure-harmony:
- Yawn: For the same reason that swallowing can be effective, try yawning. (If you’re having trouble getting sleepy, just think of somebody else yawning and you’ll most likely catch a yawn yourself.)
- Valsalva Maneuver: If you’re still having problems, try this: after pinching your nose and shutting your mouth, try blowing out without letting any air escape. In theory, the air you try to blow out should pass through your eustachian tubes and equalize the pressure.
- Try Swallowing: Pressure in the eustachian tubes will be neutralized when the muscles used to swallow are activated. This, incidentally, is also the reason why you’re told to chew gum on an airplane; the swallowing is what equalizes the ear and chewing causes you to swallow.
- Toynbee Maneuver: This is really just swallowing in a fancy way. With your mouth closed, pinch your nose and swallow. Often this is a bit easier with water in your mouth (because it forces you to keep your mouth closed).
- Frenzel Maneuver: If nothing else is effective, try this. With your mouth shut and your nose pinched, try making “k” sounds with your tongue. You can also try clicking to see if that works.
Medications And Devices
If self-administering these maneuvers doesn’t work, there are medications and devices that are specifically made to help you regulate the pressure in your ears. The cause of your barotrauma and it’s severeness will determine if these medications or techniques are correct for you.
Special earplugs will do the job in some cases. Nasal decongestants will be correct in other situations. It all depends on your scenario.
What’s The Trick?
The real trick is finding out what works for you, and your eustachian tubes.
But you should schedule an appointment for a consultation if you can’t get rid of that feeling of obstruction in your ear. Because this can also be a symptom of loss of hearing.