Have you ever been on a plane and you start to have problems with pressure in your ears? Where your ears suddenly feel blocked? Possibly somebody you know suggested you try chewing gum. And while that sometimes works, you probably don’t recognize why. Here are a few strategies for making your ears pop when they feel clogged.
Pressure And Your Ears
Turns out, your ears are rather wonderful at controlling air pressure. Owing to a useful little piece of anatomy called Eustachian tubes, the pressure of the environment is able to be regulated, adjusted, and equalized inside of your ears. Normally.
Inequalities in the pressure of the air can cause problems in situations where your Eustachian tubes are having trouble adjusting. There are instances when you might be suffering from an uncomfortable and frequently painful affliction called barotrauma which happens when there is an accumulation of fluid at the back of the ears or when you’re sick. This is the same situation you experience in small amounts when flying or driving around really tall mountains.
You normally won’t even detect small pressure differences. But you can feel pressure, pain, and crackling if your Eustachian tubes aren’t functioning efficiently or if the pressure differences are abrupt.
What is The Cause of That Crackling?
You may become curious where that crackling is coming from since it’s not typical in everyday situations. The crackling sound is frequently compared to the sound of “Rice Krispies”. In most instances, what you’re hearing is air getting around blockages or obstacles in your eustachian tubes. The cause of those blockages can range from congestion to Eustachian tube malfunction to unregulated changes in air pressure.
How to Neutralize The Pressure in Your Ears
Normally, any crackling is going to be caused by a pressure imbalance in your ears (especially if you’re on a plane). In that circumstance, you can use the following technique to neutralize ear pressure:
- Swallow: The muscles that activate when you swallow will force your eustachian tubes to open, equalizing the pressure. This also sheds light on the common advice to chew gum on a plane; the swallowing is what equalizes the ear and chewing makes you swallow.
- Valsalva Maneuver: Try this if you’re still having difficulty: pinch your nose shut your mouth, but rather than swallowing, try blowing out (don’t let any air escape if you can help it). In theory, the air you try to blow out should pass through your eustachian tubes and neutralize the pressure.
- Frenzel Maneuver: Okay, try this tactic. Pinch your nose, shut your mouth, and make “k” sounds with your tongue. You can also try clicking to see if that helps.
- Toynbee Maneuver: This is actually just a fancy way of swallowing. Pinch your nose (so that your nostrils are closed), shut your mouth, and swallow. Often this is a bit simpler with water in your mouth (because it makes you keep your mouth shut).
- Yawning: For the same reason that swallowing can be effective, try yawning. (If you’re having trouble getting sleepy, just think about someone else yawning and you’ll probably catch a yawn yourself.)
Devices And Medications
There are medications and devices that are designed to address ear pressure if none of these maneuvers work. The cause of your barotrauma and it’s severity will establish if these medications or techniques are correct for you.
Special earplugs will work in some situations. In other instances, that might mean a nasal decongestant. It all depends on your situation.
What’s The Trick?
Finding what works best for you and your eustachian tubes is the real secret.
But you should make an appointment to see us if you can’t get rid of that feeling of blockage in your ear. Because loss of hearing can begin this way.