How to Unclog Ears from Flying

For many people, flying causes discomfort in the ears. In severe cases, the pain can be extremely intense, or the ear can begin to bleed. One may also lose their hearing momentarily, experience a ringing sound in their ear/ears, or have vertigo. This is mainly because flying clogs your ears. Now let's get closer to this issue and learn why ears get clogged and how to unclog ears from flying.

Why Do Ears Clog During Flying?

When an airplane ascents or descents, the air pressure imbalances and changes rapidly. So does the air pressure of your middle ear. But the Eustachian tube in charge of regulating air pressure in ears can’t react quickly enough to the rapid changes in pressure. This prevents your tympanic membrane within the eardrum to vibrate correctly, clogging your ears and causing discomforts.

Other instances where your ears may get clogged include scuba diving, being near an explosion or hyperbaric oxygen chambers, or even going up or down in an escalator, or driving through a mountain range. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this occurrence.

How to Unclog Ears from Flying

Having clogged ears from flying is a common phenomenon and can be resolved simply and easily. Here are effective ways to unclog your ears.

1. Valsalva Maneuver

Hold your nose shut with your thumb and index finger and inhale a large breath of air. Close your mouth shut and push air toward your closed nose until your feel/hear your ears pop. You may have to be repeated several times to achieve maximum relief.

2. Yawn and Swallow

The action of yawning and swallowing works to activate the muscles to open your Eustachian tubes, helping to balance the pressure within the ear. Sucking on candy or chewing gum can also help to stimulate these muscles.

3. Try Filtered Earplugs

How to unclog ears from flying? Try the filtered earplugs. These specialized earplugs work to equalize the air pressure within your ear whilst the plane is ascending or descending. These earplugs can be found at most drug-stores, your local hearing clinic, airport shops, or online.

4. Take Medication

You can take medications beforehand to prevent ear clog or afterward to cure clogged ears.

  • NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like naproxen sodium or ibuprofen, or an analgesic painkiller like acetaminophen can ease your discomforts.
  • OTC decongestant nasal spray can help to avoid nasal congestion if taken 30 minutes to 1 hour before takeoff and landing. Using it for days can cause congestion, so avoid overuse.
  • Oral decongestants can be taken around 30 minutes to 1 hour before takeoff to prevent ear clogging. Always check with your doctor first though because you may experience interaction or side effects if you have heart diseases, high blood pressure, are older than 50, have enlarged prostate, etc.
  • Allergy medications can also provide relief if taken an hour before takeoff.

5. Other Methods

Try to avoid sleeping during flying as if you are awake you can take appropriate steps to equalize air pressure within your ear. One should also consider other methods of travel and avoid flying when possible, especially if you have recently had an ear condition or surgery on the area. 

6. Medical Solution

A really rare solution to how to unclog ears from flying is surgery. In severe cases, a surgeon may perform a myringotomy, wherein a slight incision is made in your eardrum to drain fluid and equalize the pressure of air. If the eardrum or the membrane becomes ruptured, it usually heals on its own. But in rare cases, surgery may be required to repair the rupture.