One sensation most of us who have flown are familiar with is having our ears pop upon takeoff, leading to discomfort when we return to the ground. A common way to “unclog” your ears is to hold your nose closed then breath hard. Although it’s often an effective way of equalizing the air pressure in your ears with the surrounding environment, there’s a very good reason why you should avoid doing it altogether.
Why Your Ears Pop In The First Place
Inside your middle ear down toward your throat is the Eustachian (or pharyngotympanic) tube. The Eustachian tube is normally closed off but it has a little pocket of air inside, which is usually equal to the surrounding pressure. Even though airplane cabins are pressurized, on most commercial aircraft the pressure is equivalent to roughly 2,100 meters (~6,900 feet) above sea level.
The higher up you are the lower the air pressure and as you increase in altitude, the Eustachian tubes open slightly, letting out air. When this happens you hear the familiar “pop” in your ears, allowing you to hear optimally in different pressure zones. You’ll notice right after landing your hearing feels muffled, and it will, until your Eustachian tubes upon up again to equalize pressure.
Blowing Too Hard Can Perforate Your Eardrum
Generally speaking your Eustachian tubes will balance things out on their own after a few days. You can however encourage them along in a few ways. For example, taking a hot shower, exercise strenuous enough to cause heavy breathing, and decongestant medicine work well since the Eustachian tubes also regulate mucus drainage. (Dry air conditions on airplanes can cause sinus congestion blocking your Eustachian tubes.)
Most doctors don’t recommend the hold-your-nose-and-breath technique to force air through your Eustachian tubes because too much pressure can tear your eardrum. The key is to be gentle – there’s only so much air that can go through your Eustachian tubes – and give up if things don’t feel better after a soft try or two.
What To Do If You Tear Your Eardrum
You’ll know you have if you experience intense pain with hearing loss. A bit of blood or discharge might also drip from your ear, all symptoms that mean it’s time to visit a doctor as soon as possible. Most perforated eardrums are partial tears that heal on their own within two months but it’s important you have a doctor take a look to ensure surgery isn’t required. You’ll also be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infections which can delay healing or eventually lead to a minor (but inconvenient) surgical fix.
You might want to seek medical advice as well if you still feel bouncy a week after flying, a visit to the doctor that shouldn’t cost much if you’ve done the wise thing and purchased travel insurance.
I’ve honestly never even heard of anyone doing that after or during a flight. The only time I’ve heard of this technique for equalization is while scuba diving when wiggling your jaw is not enough.
I’m surprised, I see it upon landing sometimes but I think more people try unplugging their ears once they arrive home or at their accommodation, it might be why you haven’t come across it yet?
I’ve done this my whole life without blowing out my eardrums. You do it very slowly of course.
This is where most people who do get injured go wrong.
I was always told to chew gum or open your mouth like yawning.
…a much gentler (and safe) approach.
I tried this, and my ear hurt while the air went through, now it feels clogged. Should i See a doctor?
Are you still having pain or any hearing loss? If so, definitely worth checking it out by a doctor.
I held my nose and blew and felt might right ear pop but my left ear started bleeding the next day….not a lot but the ENT saw it clotting and thinks that I may have something in my ear from a bug or debris from the yard. He gave me drops for 7 days. I can hear fine but I think it may have caused a problem to my ear. Dr. saw fresh blood clotting against the bone beyond the canal. Do you think the blowing with my nose held tight and mouth closed could have done something? Thank you
I learn something new today !! i never heard about this before but is very interesting
wow, I didn’t know about that. Thanks for sharing!
Greetings from Poland!
Happy to help (your eardrums!)
Why do you get dizzy if you do this for a few seconds hard enough? (or too hard, I guess)
It’s the same basic reason, you’re changing the pressure inside the Eustachian tubes in your ears.
This seems like it was written by someone who has no trouble with equalization. When my ears won’t equalize the pain is intense. So intense it feels like something is going to explode in my head. Like if a doctor asks pain level 1 to 10 I’d say 8 or 9. There’s no way I’m not going to try to equalize. If you don’t need to and you can wait until you get home then I suggest you’re not getting the same amount of pain. Sure I try yawning, chewing gum, making swallowing motions etc but once in awhile none of that works. The pain builds and I have to do something. I generally pinch my nose and plug one ear, whichever is more equalized and then slowly increase the pressure. I’ve never had a “blow out” in the ear. Instead eventually with enough pressure some air makes it through my Eustachian tube in that ear and it equalizes out over 3-5 seconds.
Hopefully you don’t – though most doctors don’t recommend that method of equalization because of the potential to tear the ear drum.
Swallowing once always fixes it for me instantly.
Ok so i was blowing my nose the other day and a bunch of air came out of my left ear. It hurt for a bit but settled down and then i could hear better from it. This has started to happen with my left ear and right more often now, hav i damaged something?
It’s likely you just blew your nose so hard it forced air out of your Eustachian tubes.
“The key is to be gentile – there’s only so much air that can go through your Eustachian tubes…”
So this won’t work if you’e Jewish? 🙂
I didn’t get it… ?
Can’t believe it took me so long to see the typo…
I’m kinda freaked out, i have been doing this method for 3 days straight, but they never popped, now I feel like I will never be able to hear like i used to, and i feel that maybe i damaged my ear drum.
Sounds like it’s time to visit the doctor.
I consulted with my Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat medical doctor (EENT) for losing some hearing on my right ear. After examination, he instructed me to do this exercise ten times a day everyday until my middle ear clears up or my hearing comes back. After the first couple of day of the exercise, my right ear is 90 per cent cleared and I my hearing has returned although not 100 per cent yet. I continue to do the exercise as medically instructed.
One of my ear clogged after doing this, so after that i did this many times to unclog my ear and did it very forcefully. Then i heard sound of air like “whoosh” in my clogged ear. It felt as if air came out of my eardrum. i am having weird feeling in my ear. Though my ears are cleared now.
As a result,is there any possibility to get tinnitus? Because I did it once and got a hearing loss and tinnitus in my right ear.Actually I don’t know there is any relationship.
I haven’t heard or read of any connections, but definitely sounds worth a visit to the doctor.
I was learning how to blow glass today and I may have blown too hard because shortly after I heard crinkling noises in one ear and after a little while my gland swelled up and so did my neck. My face is also swollen on that side.
I do not have severe pain in the ear but my swollen areas hurt .
I would recommend getting it checked by a doctor, especially if you have any hearing loss.
Soooo what if I’ve done this to the point that sometimes air bubbles now travel to my eye socket and go out against my eye?
You go to a doctor 🙂
I am currently having that type of problem of the ear,but don’t seems to know how to go about it. it has be doing me for days now
I have done this many, many times and just last week I did it again and tore my eardrum. I did not even know this was possible. I wished I would have read this first. Oh well, you live and learn. The pain is only bad when I touch the ear, other than that it is bearable.
It’s definitely worth seeing a doctor to get it checked out.
Today I blew out my ear and I heard a slight pop and shortly after I had ear pain later I closed my eyes right and I felt something move in my ear .what’s wrong with it and what should I do
Best to visit a doctor to get it checked out!
I blew out my ears and 1 stayed clogged and the pressure from that isnt going away and i can constantly feel it, tried the all the methods for it i can find, most were about popping your ears rather than relieving pressure, any advice on how to get rid of the pressure?
How long has it been?
So ive been doing this for 4 years straight and never had many problems but right now i feel severe paing in my left ear and it feels like its swallen (probably because of the air stuck in my ear). But nothing seems too note worthy just alot and i mean ALOT of pain in my ear, do you recommend doctor??
If it hurts that much, definitely seeing a doctor is a good idea!
I meant pain*
I damaged my right eardrum by blowing air while I held my nose, now when I swallow I hear a cracking sound in my ear, I also experienced a nose bleed from my left nostril. I am really scared I hurt myself. Will my eardrum heal on its own? I will never do that again. I, like Gregg, experience extreme levels of pain when I fly and I thought I could get immediate relief by blowing air through my ear, bad decision.
Definitely go to a doctor to be absolutely sure to make sure there’s not serious or permanent damage. Hopefully it’s not a big deal and you’ll be back to normal in a few weeks!
I can feel ringing in my ears… what can I do.. I don’t feel pain.. I feel something blocking my right ear when I swallow saliva OT food… pls what can I do to stop d ringing in my ears… I can hear properly anyway?
Best to get it checked with a doctor, hope it’s nothing serious.
I’ve had trouble with my eustachian tubes being blocked for several years, and every doctor I’ve seen about it has recommended using this technique as regularly as possible, alongside taking decongestant medication. Of course medical advice varies from country to country, but I see that several other people in the comments here are saying they were recommended the same by their doctors too! All the advice I’ve seen online except for this article has recommended the same. Unless your eardrums are already damaged or weakened, you’d have to be blowing ridiculously hard for there to be a risk of blowing them out. The article even says “the key is to be gentle”, so why the clickbait headling implying you should never do it?
This might answer you questions: https://foxnomad.com/2021/04/29/the-best-way-to-unclog-your-ears-after-a-flight/
Hello, I just had a fever 2-3 days ago, I just recovered from it.
At the 2nd day my ears started to clog, I did a yawning trick, which worked for my left ear, but my right ear is the trouble-maker, whenever I swallow a drink I hear a crackling noise, almost like a pop, it happens usually twice within a span of not even half a second.
My right ear hears great, and there’s no pain, but I’m not sure why it won’t pop correctly. I’m scared that it could be something worse, can you please help me out?
Thank you so much!
I’m not qualified to give you medical advice, check with a doctor to be sure. Hope it gets better soon!
An article on internet says excess air pressure in the ears can affect your eyes.
this article diseases where ears affect the eye and not popping one’s ears as a cause of eye problems.
However, apparently, the nerves for the ears and nerves for the eye run physically close to each other and can interfere in high pressure in the ears situations. I have on rare occision popped by ears for years. However, I recently had popping my ears affect my eyes. After popping my ears I had double vision for several minutes and it went away. So I am not going to pop my ears anymore.
There’s some additional good information in this follow up I posted: https://foxnomad.com/2021/04/29/the-best-way-to-unclog-your-ears-after-a-flight/
I have been trying to unblock my left ear for a while. When I softly blow while holding my nose I can feel my ear pop (open up) but within a second or 2 after unplugging my nose I can feel the ear close back up. While gently blowing my hearing is obviously better in that left ear. Any thoughts? My left side continues to feel full/plugged and my hearing on that side is definitely poorer than the right.
You might find this update helpful: https://foxnomad.com/2021/04/29/the-best-way-to-unclog-your-ears-after-a-flight/