Have you ever been on a plane and you start to have problems with pressure in your ears? Where all of a sudden, your ears seem to be blocked? Someone you know probably suggested chewing gum. And while that works sometimes, you probably don’t know why. Here are a few tricks for making your ears pop when they feel blocked.
Pressure And Your Ears
Your ears, as it so happens, do an extremely good job at controlling pressure. Thanks to a handy little piece of physiology called Eustachian tubes, the pressure on the interior of your ears is able to regulate, modify, and equalize to the pressure in the outside world. Usually.
Inequalities in air pressure can cause issues in situations where your Eustachian tubes are not adjusting properly. There are times when you could be suffering from an unpleasant and often painful affliction called barotrauma which happens when there is an accumulation of fluid behind the ears or when you’re sick. At higher altitudes, you feel a small amount of this exact situation.
Most of the time, you won’t notice differences in pressure. But when those differences are sudden, or when your Eustachian tubes aren’t working quite right, you can feel fullness, pain, and even crackling in your ears.
Where’s That Crackling Coming From?
Hearing crackling inside of your ears is somewhat unusual in a day-to-day setting, so you might be justifiably curious where that comes from. The sound itself is often compared to a “Rice Krispies” style noise. Usually, air moving around obstructions of the eustachian tubes is the cause of this crackling. The cause of those obstructions can range from congestion to Eustachian tube failure to unregulated changes in air pressure.
How to Neutralize The Pressure in Your Ears
Usually, any crackling will be caused by a pressure imbalance in your ears (particularly if you’re on a plane). In that scenario, you can try the following technique to neutralize ear pressure:
- Try Swallowing: Pressure in the eustachian tubes will be equalized when the muscles that are used to swallow are activated. This, incidentally, is also why you’re told to chew gum when flying; the chewing causes you to swallow, and swallowing is what forces the ears to equalize.
- Valsalva Maneuver: If you’re still having difficulty, try this: after pinching your nose and shutting your mouth, try blowing out without letting any air get out. Theoretically, the pressure should be equalized when the air you try to blow out passes over your eustachian tubes.
- Toynbee Maneuver: This is actually just swallowing in a fancy way. With your mouth closed, pinch your nose and swallow. If you take a mouth full of water (which will help you keep your mouth closed) it might help.
- Frenzel Maneuver: If nothing else works, try this. With your mouth closed and your nose pinched, try making “k” noises with your tongue. You can also try clicking to see if that helps.
- Yawn: Try yawning, it works for the same reason that swallowing does. (If you’re having trouble getting sleepy, just imagine somebody else yawning and you’ll most likely catch a yawn yourself.)
Medications And Devices
There are medications and devices that are made to manage ear pressure if none of these maneuvers work. Whether these techniques or medications are right for you will depend on the underlying cause of your barotrauma, as well as the severity of your symptoms.
Sometimes that might mean special earplugs. Nasal decongestants will be appropriate in other cases. Your situation will determine your remedy.
What’s The Trick?
Finding what works best for you and your eustachian tubes is the real key.
If, however, you’re finding that that sensation of having a blocked ear doesn’t go away, you should come and see us. Because this can also be a symptom of hearing loss.