Ear health on airplane trips

Ear health on airplane trips

With the developing transportation opportunities and the fact that air travel has become almost a necessity for everyone, we have become much more air travel than 10 years ago. With the increase in travel, the frequency of health problems encountered during travel has also increased. When we look closely at the relationship between air travel and health, we see that ear-related problems come first among these health problems. Especially when the plane is landing, the compression due to the decrease in middle ear pressure can lead to various diseases from ear pain to complete hearing loss. Two-thirds of children and half of adults will definitely experience ear discomfort at least once, albeit mildly, on flights. Naturally, as the number of people traveling by plane increases, the frequency of such problems also increases.

pressure problem

As the plane descends, the pressure in the middle ear cavity begins to drop rapidly according to physical laws. This causes our eardrum to pull inward. The inner eardrums, which open into the middle ear, are also pulled towards the middle ear. If the pressure in the middle ear is not balanced using the eustachian tube, this pressure gradually decreases, resulting in a series of events leading to fluid-blood accumulation in the middle ear or perforation of all membranes. All these negativities lead to hearing loss, dizziness and ear pain. In order to balance the pressure in the middle ear, it is absolutely necessary to make moves to open the Eustachian tube (chewing gum, yawning movements, etc.). Since the Eustachian tube will be swollen and edematous in upper respiratory tract infections such as colds and flu, full efficiency may not be obtained from these opening movements. There is also a potential risk in patients with chronic nasal congestion. Apart from this, the same pressure problem may be experienced in the space between the plug and the eardrum in patients with occlusive earwax in the external ear canal or those who use headphones tightly.

ear complaints

Depending on the decrease in pressure in the middle ear, a feeling of ear congestion, mild pain, a feeling of fullness, ringing, dizziness, complete deafness, and bleeding from the ear can be seen, respectively. Although mild complaints may occur due to the inability of the eardrum to function fully at the beginning, more serious conditions such as perforation of the eardrum and leakage of the inner ear fluid into the middle ear may occur. With the precautions and treatment methods we will take during the flight and especially during the landing, you can get rid of this situation without any harm. However, if your symptoms still persist after landing, you should definitely consult an Ear Nose and Throat doctor.

risky situations

Air travel should be done with a healthy nose and ear, especially with the Eustachian tube in full working condition. In cases such as chronic nasal obstructions and diseases (septum deviation, chronic sinusitis, etc.), ear diseases (ear wax, chronic ear pressure imbalances, inner ear fistulas), an otolaryngologist should be visited first. In addition, your ears are at risk during your flight in cases such as nasal allergies and upper respiratory tract infections (flu-cold). Intense water retention in pregnant women can cause negativities in the opening of the eustachian tube and balancing the middle ear pressure. Pregnant women should be more careful about precautions. Anatomically immaturity of eustachian in infants and children, presence of adenoids, The fact that they have upper respiratory tract infections more frequently also causes them to have more problems. Contrary to expectations, the presence of fluid in the middle ear, which is common in children, plays a protective role in terms of the ears being affected by pressure in flight.


  • If possible, do not fly while you have an upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Use nasal spray and pills 30-45 minutes before boarding and landing (with your doctor’s recommendation!).
  • If you have an allergic rhinitis, you must be under treatment.
  • You should try to open your Eustachian tube by chewing gum, sucking on sugar, and yawning. The sooner you start to open the Eustachian tube, the sooner you will prevent it from getting worse. During the descent, pressure should be balanced by trying to open the Eustachian tube almost every two minutes.
  • You must have seen your Ear Nose and Throat doctor in terms of ear cleaning.
  • You can try the Valsalva move, which opens the Eustachian tube. The act of sending the air from your nose to your ear while closing your nose with your fingers and taking a light breath through your mouth is called the Valvalva maneuver.
  • Especially when the plane is landing, you should be careful not to sleep. Thus, you can detect ear disorders early.
  • In order to prevent your baby or child from facing these situations, you can make your child drink something or chew gum as soon as you start to feel discomfort in your ear. In this way, you will provide swallowing and opening the Eustachian tube movements, so you will relax your child.
  • Loosen or remove your earplugs while the plane is landing, do not use earplugs.
  • Alcohol and excessive caffeine use is not recommended. You should drink plenty of fluids during the flight.
  • If you have had ear surgery, you should consult your doctor before flying.

When should a doctor be consulted?

If you have serious ear problems during the flight, your complaints last for more than a few hours, bleeding from the ear, profound hearing loss and dizziness, you should consult your doctor immediately. Your diagnosis will be made with an ear and nose examination, you will be told what to do and your treatment will be arranged. Your treatment may be drug therapy or surgical methods including eardrum interventions. The feeling of fullness in the ear and hearing loss may take up to 4 weeks.