Many people have experienced the uncomfortable sensation of having their ears plug up during a flight. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, it has to do with the eustachian tube, a channel in our ear that stabilizes pressure between our two ears.
As we ascend or descend while flying, the change in altitude affects the eustachian tube’s ability to regulate that pressure. Sometimes the change in pressure causes the eustachian tube to collapse, which creates that blocked sensation.
This means the key to relieving that feeling is to reopen to the eustachian tube so it can equalise the pressure. Thankfully, you don’t have to wait until you arrive at your destination to make that happen.
Here are five ways to pop your ears while you’re still in the air.
Try chewing gum.
Next time you’re waiting at the airport, be sure to pick up some gum. Chewing gum can actually help pop your ears on a plane because it stimulates saliva production.
As the mouth produces more saliva, we naturally begin to swallow. When you swallow, the muscles on your soft palate (aka the roof of your mouth) pull the eustachian tube open. This typically gets rid of the clogged feeling in your ears.
Suck on a hard candy.
Like chewing gum, the act of sucking a lollipop, cough drop, or any small candy stimulates saliva production that can lead to swallowing. As noted previously, this action causes ears to pop.
Make yourself yawn.
It may seem strange to think of forcing a yawn if you’re not tired, but it’s one of the easiest ways to safely pop your ears.
According to Mayo Clinic, when we opening our mouths nice and wide stretches muscles in the back of our throat that are connected to the eustachian tube. This can cause the tube to reopen so it can adjust to the outside air pressure.
Once the pressure stabilizes, the discomfort disappears. You can try to make yourself yawn by inhaling deeply while thinking about yawning.
Read More: 15 secrets you never knew about flying
Use the doctor-approved technique called the Valsalva manoeuvre.
This popular technique can be an effective way to clear air-clogged ears, according to a study by the ENT department of Gentofte University Hospital.
According to Healthline, to perform an effective Valsalva, you first need to close your mouth and pinch your nose. Then, gently breathe out through your nose.
Doing this pushes air into the nose, and in effect, the eustachian tube. That air flow can cause the tube to open up and successfully pop that clogged feeling.
However, be careful not to blow the air too forcefully into your nose because it can potentially burst your eardrum.
If the Valsalva manoeuvre is too difficult, try the Toynbee manoeuvre.
According to a study by the Gulhane Military Medical Academy, the Toynbee manoeuvre is another effective approach to help clear your ears.
To do this, simply pinch your nose and swallow. If your mouth is feeling a little dry, a few sips of water can make the process easier.
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