- By sahlhealth
- May 18, 2021
- 22 views
Airplane ear is the stress exerted on your eardrum and other middle ear tissues when the air pressure in your middle ear and the air pressure in the environment are out of balance. You may experience airplane ear at the beginning of a flight when the airplane is climbing or at the end of a flight when the airplane is descending. These fast changes in altitude cause air pressure changes and can trigger airplane ear.
Airplane ear is also called ear barotrauma, barotitis media or aerotitis media.
Usually self-care steps â€” such as yawning, swallowing or chewing gum â€” can prevent or correct the differences in air pressure and improve airplane ear symptoms. However, a severe case of airplane ear may need to be treated by a doctor.
Airplane ear can occur in one or both ears.
Airplane ear signs and symptoms may include:
- Moderate discomfort or pain in your ear
- Feeling of fullness or stuffiness in your ear
- Muffled hearing or slight to moderate hearing loss
- If airplane ear is severe or lasts more than a few hours, you may experience:
- Severe pain
- Pressure in your ear similar to being underwater
- Moderate to severe hearing loss
- Ringing in your ear (tinnitus)
- Spinning sensation (vertigo)
- Vomiting resulting from vertigo
- Bleeding from your ear
When to see a doctor
Usually you can do things on your own to treat airplane ear. If discomfort, fullness or muffled hearing lasts more than a few hours or if you experience any severe signs or symptoms, call your doctor.
Your doctor will likely be able to make a diagnosis based on questions he or she asks and an examination of your ear with a lighted instrument (otoscope). Signs of airplane ear might include a slight outward or inward bulging of your eardrum. If your condition is more severe, your doctor may see a tear in the eardrum or a pooling of blood or other fluids behind your eardrum.
If you're experiencing a spinning sensation (vertigo), there may be damage to structures of your inner ear. Your doctor may suggest a hearing test (audiometry) to determine how well you detect sounds and whether the source of hearing problems is in the inner ear.
For most people, airplane ear usually heals with time. When the symptoms persist, you may need treatments to equalize pressure and relieve symptoms.
Your doctor may prescribe medications or direct you to take over-the-counter medications to control conditions that may prevent the eustachian tubes from functioning well. These drugs may include:
- Decongestant nasal sprays
- Oral decongestants
- Oral antihistamines
To ease discomfort, you may want to take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others), or an analgesic pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
With your drug treatment, your doctor will instruct you to use a self-care method called the Valsalva maneuver. To do this, you pinch your nostrils shut, close your mouth and gently force air into the back of your nose, as if you were blowing your nose. Once the medications have improved the function of the eustachian tubes, use of the Valsalva maneuver may force the tubes open.
Surgical treatment of airplane ear is rarely necessary. However, your doctor may make an incision in your eardrum (myringotomy) to equalize air pressure and drain fluids.
Severe injuries, such as a ruptured eardrum or ruptured membranes of the inner ear, usually will heal on their own. However, in rare cases, surgery may be needed to repair them.