All of us are familiar with the odd sensation in our ears that occurs during and after a flight. Blocked or “clogged” ears can be a nuisance or even painful but with some preparation plus moderation, nothing that has to ruin your next airplane ride.
Dr. Saba Ghorab has over 14 years of education and specialized surgical training as a board-certified and fellowship-trained in Otolaryngology; Head and Neck Surgery (also known as ENT or ear, nose, and throat). She recently joined an episode of the foXnoMad Podcast and describes how to deal with clogged ears. You can watch a clip here or listen to the full episode below.
Prepare Before You Fly
Having sinuses that are de-congested as much as possible before you fly puts your inner ear in the best condition to deal with pressure changes at altitude. Dr. Ghorab recommends a decongestant spray 15 minutes before your flight, particularly if you’re prone to allergies. Treating any other common sources of congestion or inflammation, like symptoms of a cold, can also help.
Chewing gum and yawning often to physically open the Eustachian tube in your inner ears will help it equalize with the changing pressure as you go up or down in altitude.
You can (and should) hold your nose and blow to further open your Eustachian tubes but remember not to overdo it. We’ve talked about what can go wrong if you hold your nose and blow as hard as you can so lighter, more frequent attempts are better than one massive attempt. Keep at it, be patient, and don’t force the issue. For most stubborn cases of clogged airplane ears time will usually do its magic eventually, with a little help from you.