Ear Pain While Flying
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always suffered with the worst pain in my ears while flying, usually only at landing, but occasionally during take-off too. It’s that bad that my ears don’t actually pop for about 2 days after landing, so I’ve never been able to take connecting flights because if I fly again within that timeframe, the pain is excrutiating!
I used to always only use flight earplugs by themselves with some painkillers, but over the last few years I’ve tried different methods to help to reduce the ear pain during landing and I’ve finally found a way that helps my ears to pop and nine times out of ten, I get no pain whatsoever. It’s still a really strange feeling for me to have my ears actually pop like a normal person as we start to decend, with no pain and I love it! I can finally take connecting flights without having to stop-over for like 3 days. The world is my oyster (I might be being a little dramatic here, but it’s SO exciting to me haha).
Airplane Ear is caused when there’s an imbalance of air pressure between the middle ear and the environment outside of the ear. There’s a small tube that connects the area between the middle ear and the nasal cavity called the eustachian tube. Airplane ear happens when the tube doesn’t equalise quickly enough to the environmental pressure changes as you take off or decend. You can also suffer with airplane ear when you have a cold, hayfever or an ear infection.
So here’s some of my tips to help deal with the pain during flying.
I found the best way to help my ears pop is to breathe. The best way is to breathe in through your nose, swallow, then breathe out through your nose. I know a lot of people like to pinch their nose while breathing out through the nose, keeping your mouth shut (also known as the Valsalva method) but this can actually damage your ears and puts pressure on your chest/heart!
I used to use some flight ear plugs that we bought in boots in the departure lounge once, but since I swapped over to these Alpine Flyfit Earplugs* (Affiliate Link) they’ve been a lot better. The reviews are amazing and they’re so worth the money to me and you an re-use them unlike some other brands.
They have a special filter in them to graduate the pressure changes during take-off and landing. I put them in just before take-off and take them out when my ears stop popping. Then I can feel when we start to decend, so I pop them straight back in as soon as I can feel that until we’ve landed.
Since I don’t usually get any pain on take-off, I usually take some ibuprofen an hour or so before we’re due to land, along with some cold and flu relief to help unblock my sinuses as much as possible. Make sure they don’t contain the same painkiller as you’ve taken separately though e.g i take ibuprofen, so I make sure my cold and flu tablets contain paracetamol instead.
I’m not sure why, but I noticed that my ears pop a lot easier when I’ve taken hayfever tablets. If it’s a short haul flight, I usually take these just before takeoff. If we’re flying long-haul, then I’d take them about halfway through the flight.
I used to suck on sweets, but since swapping over to chewing gum this has helped a lot too. I’ve found the mint flavours work a lot better than fruity flavours though, probably as they help clear your nose too with all the breathing in and out. Just keep on chewing while breathing and you’ll be good (hopefully).
Menthol Nasal Stick
The last thing you want is a blocked nose if you suffer with ear pain while flying, so the best thing to help clear it is a menthol nasal stick from brands like Vicks or Olbas (or supermarket own brands). I use mine just before take-off, mid flight, and just before landing to help keep my nose clear for all the breathing in and out haha!
I love these Breathe Right Nasal Strips* (Affiliate Link), and although it might be taking things to the far extreme, I’ve found my ears pop a lot better when I put these on. They’re designed to be worn by snorers during sleep as they open up your nasal passages making it easier to breathe. Again, I put a strip on just before take-off and take it off when I take my earplugs out. Then I put another one on just as I put my earplugs back in.
I know it might all seem like a lot of things to have to worry about and take on-board with me, I honestly find it’s helped my ears SO much to the point that I barely ever get any ear pain while flying now. I’ve got my little flight bag filled with everything I need so I can just grab things throughout the flight. Have you got any tips to add?
* This post contains some affiliate links at no extra cost to you, but I do make a small amount of commission on any purchases you make. (Also, this post is NOT sponsored by Tesco, we just buy a lot of stuff there haha).
Priya SubasingheJune 27, 2021 at 4:29 am
Thanks for this blog. I was thinking of using nasal strips on flights to relieve ear pain and yours is the only place I found. Thanks for all the useful information and I will see if these work this time. I hate flying due to the severe ear aches but I hope this time it will be okay. Thanks once again.