Ever have troubles with your ears on a plane? Where out of the blue, your ears seem to be clogged? Maybe someone you know recommended you try chewing gum. And while that works sometimes, you probably don’t know why. Here are a few tricks for making your ears pop when they feel plugged.
Pressure And Your Ears
Turns out, your ears are rather wonderful at controlling air pressure. Thanks to a handy little piece of physiology called Eustachian tubes, the pressure of the environment is able to be regulated, adjusted, and equalized inside of your ears. Normally.
Irregularities in the pressure of the air can cause issues in circumstances where your Eustachian tubes are not adjusting properly. There are times when you might be suffering from an unpleasant and often painful condition called barotrauma which happens when there is a buildup of fluid behind the ears or when you’re ill. At higher altitudes, you feel a small amount of this exact situation.
You normally won’t even detect gradual pressure differences. But when those changes are sudden, or when your Eustachian tubes aren’t working properly, you can feel pressure, pain, and even crackling inside of your ears.
Where’s That Crackling Coming From?
Hearing crackling in your ears is somewhat unusual in an everyday setting, so you might be understandably curious about the cause. The crackling sound is often compared to the sound of “Rice Krispies”. In many instances, what you’re hearing is air getting around obstructions or impediments in your eustachian tubes. Unregulated changes in air pressure, malfunction of the eustachian tubes, or even congestion can all be the reason for those blockages.
Neutralizing Ear Pressure
Typically, any crackling is going to be caused by a pressure imbalance in your ears (especially if you’re on a plane). And if that occurs, there are several ways to bring your inner ear and outer ear back into air-pressure-harmony:
- Frenzel Maneuver: If nothing else works, try this. With your mouth shut and your nose pinched, try making “k” sounds with your tongue. Clicking may also help.
- Yawning: For the same reason that swallowing can be effective, try yawning. (If you’re having trouble forcing a yawn, just imagine somebody else yawning and you’ll probably start to yawn yourself.)
- Valsalva Maneuver: Try this if you’re still having problems: after pinching your nose and shutting your mouth, try blowing out without allowing any air escape. In theory, the air you try to blow out should pass through your eustachian tubes and equalize the pressure.
- Toynbee Maneuver: This is really just swallowing in an elaborate way. With your mouth shut, pinch your nose and swallow. If you take a mouth full of water (which will help you keep your mouth closed) it could be helpful.
- Try Swallowing: Pressure in the eustachian tubes will be neutralized when the muscles used to swallow are activated. This also explains the accepted advice to chew gum on a plane; the chewing makes you swallow, and swallowing is what causes the ears to equalize.
Medications And Devices
There are medications and devices that are designed to deal with ear pressure if none of these maneuvers work. Whether these techniques or medications are the right choice for you will depend on the underlying cause of your barotrauma, as well as the extent of your symptoms.
Special earplugs will work in some situations. Nasal decongestants will be correct in other situations. It all depends on your scenario.
What’s The Trick?
The real trick is finding out what works for you, and your eustachian tubes.
But you should schedule an appointment to see us if you can’t shake that feeling of blockage in your ear. Because loss of hearing can begin this way.