Why Do My Ears Hurt When I Fly?


little girl ears hurting and plugged up on flight with earache


Many people are in the dark when it comes to understanding why their ears hurt when they fly. In this article, we break down why your ears hurt when you fly and what you can do about it.

If you have ever flown before then you likely know that when a plane is taking off or landing you are susceptible to an earache. But why is this the case? Sometimes when a person travels in one direction either up or down in a short time period, they feel a slight earache.

Why Do My Ears Hurt On An Airplane?

When a person moves either closer to or further from Earth’s center of gravity, as is the case during the takeoff and landing of a plane, there is a shift or change in air pressure. Since the eardrum is located between two air-pockets, namely the ear canal and the middle ear, changes in air pressure can affect the position of the eardrum.

During takeoff, the change in pressure causes the eardrum to be slightly pushed outward, and during landing, the opposite occurs. This push or pull that your eardrum experiences is the root cause of any pain or discomfort felt in the ears when flying.


How Do I Stop My Ears From Hurting On A Plane?

To stop ears from hurting on a plane, try to equalize the air pressure felt in your ears. This can be done in several ways. Blowing gently through your nose, while pinching your nostrils together and preventing the air from passing through your nose or mouth is one way. 

There are some other very easy measures a person can take to stop their ears from hurting on a plane. 

For Adults

  • Swallowing consistently during take-off and landing, having a drink handy helps
  • Chew on a piece of gum
  • Suck on hard candies
  • Use the Valsalva Maneuver
  • Open your mouth wide and attempt to yawn


The above techniques can help tremendously to stop your ears from hurting on a plane. The last technique is a variation of the first one mentioned, the Valsalva maneuver, is one that does not require any additional products. Instead, simply close your eyes, take a deep breath in, pinch your nose, and then try to force air out of your nose until you feel your ears pop. That works for a majority of people to stop any ear discomfort. If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the video below. 




For Children

  • Drink a juice box during takeoff and landing
  • Suck on a hard candy if the child is over 3 years old
  • Suck on a pacifier (or “dummy” in the UK)
  • Try to yawn
  • Use the Valsalva Maneuver


Or check out the video below for an additional idea.



How Do I Unblock My Ears After A Flight?

Sometimes, even when you try to stop your ears from hurting on a plane, you may feel that your ears are still blocked after a flight. Here are some tips to unblock your ears after a flight or help with ear discomfort or ear pain after you fly:

  • The Valsalva Maneuver
  • Apply a warm compress
  • Try steaming (placing your ear over a pot of steaming water)
  • Use olive oil or hydrogen peroxide ear drops


When To See A Doctor?

Sometimes, flying can be quite harmful to your ears. In serious cases, you may need to see a doctor if you have experienced extreme pain in your ears during or after a flight. If you feel serious pain, experience bleeding or fluids draining from our ears, muffled hearing or some hearing loss, see a doctor within a few days of flying.




Thanks for reading.


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