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Considering Traveling by Plane This Summer? Here is Some Information About Air Travel and Ear Pain (and what you can do to avoid it).

Many of us didn’t travel much in 2020, especially by airplane. It can be exciting to think about flying to a new destination (or an old favorite) again soon, but air travel isn’t all sunshine and flowers. For one thing, you never know how long the security line will be at the airport. Then there’s the issue of packing—how can you possibly fit everything you need into just one or two bags? And once you get on the airplane and you’re heading up into the sky, there’s the dreaded ear pain. Here are some easy tips to avoid ear pain while traveling by air.
What Causes Ear Pain during Air Travel?
The issue with ear pain and air travel is due to air pressure. When the air pressure inside and outside the inner ear are the same, as they usually are, you do not have ear pain. But when you rapidly change altitude, as you do when traveling by plane, the pressure inside and outside of the inner ear does not have time to equalize. This is what causes ear pain while traveling by air, and it is called ear barotrauma.
How Can You Prevent Ear Pain during Air Travel?
The key is to help the air pressure equalize inside and outside of the inner ear. This is the job of the Eustachian tube, which ensures that the air in the middle ear is being constantly replenished. That air is then absorbed into the membranes of the inner ear. To help this process, you can introduce as much air as possible until the pressure equalizes. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Swallow.
    When you swallow, you might hear a clicking or popping sound. That sound is a tiny bubble of air that has moved from the back of the nose into the inner ear via the Eustachian tube. During air travel, opening the Eustachian tube more frequently by swallowing helps to accommodate the change in air pressure.
  • Chew gum or suck on hard candy.
    Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can stimulate more frequent swallowing. This, in turn, opens the Eustachian tube and helps to equalize the air pressure.
  • Try the Valsalva maneuver.
    More commonly known as “clearing your ears,” the Valsalva maneuver opens the Eustachian tube and helps to equalize the air pressure. To do this, take a mouthful of air, close your mouth, pinch your nostrils shut, and gently force air out until your ears pop. do not try this maneuver if you have a cold or allergies because it could cause an ear infection. Instead, you can try the Toynbee maneuver. Close your mouth and nose, and then swallow several times until the pressure equalizes. Both of these techniques can be repeated as necessary.

Here are a few more simple things you can do to prevent ear pain during air travel:

  • If you can, stay awake during takeoff (ascent) and landing (descent).
  • Drink plenty of fluids both before and during your flight to stay hydrated.
  • Yawn.
  • Use nasal spray one hour prior to landing and only as needed. Overusing nasal sprays can cause more congestion.
  • Take a nasal decongestant one hour before landing, as well as after your flight until your ears normalize.
  • If you have young children, help them prevent ear pain by giving them candy such as a lollipop or having them drink through a straw or blow bubbles through a straw. If you have an infant, give them a pacifier or feed them during takeoff and landing.
  • If you are ill with a cold, the flu, or allergies, you may want to consider changing your travel plans. Your illness can cause a blockage in the Eustachian tube, which makes it more difficult or even impossible for the air pressure to equalize. This can lead to a ruptured eardrum or severe ear infection, which can lead to hearing loss or ear damage.

To learn more about how you can prevent ear pain while traveling by airplane, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to help!

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1 in 20 People Has Disabling Hearing Loss. Are You One of Them?

Imagine you decide to throw a party and you invite 20 of your closest friends and family members. Statistically speaking, it is likely that when those 20 people are in the room, at least one of them has disabling hearing loss. That is what the World Health Organization (WHO) found in a recent study: more than one in 20 people has disabling hearing loss.
Disabling hearing loss means that the better-hearing ear has moderate or worse hearing loss, with the hearing loss affecting the person’s quality of life. While illustrative exercises like imagining your 20 closest friends at a party can help you understand the shocking commonality of disabling hearing loss, the truth is that hearing loss does not equally affect the entire population of the world. 432 million adults and 34 million children have disabling hearing loss, according to the WHO, and most of the sufferers live in poor- and middle-income countries.
It is projected that by 2050, more than 900 million people worldwide will suffer from significant hearing impairment. While there is little you can do as an individual to prevent hearing loss worldwide, you can take steps to protect your own hearing—and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Here are some simple yet effective ways to protect your hearing health:

  • Avoid excessive loud noises. Wear ear protection when exposed to loud noise, such as at construction sites, factories, while doing yard work, etc.
  • Keep your music at a reasonable volume. Listening to loud music can, over time, damage your hearing.
  • Get a hearing evaluation if you believe you might have hearing loss. This ensures that any hearing loss is identified and treated.

With one in 20 people now suffering from disabling hearing loss and that number expected to double in the next 30 years, it is not unlikely that you will experience hearing loss at some point. The numbers of people with age-related hearing loss are even greater than those with disabling hearing loss; one in three people between the ages of 65-75 years has hearing loss, and nearly half of those over the age of 75 have difficulty hearing.
It is important that you schedule a hearing evaluation with your hearing professional as soon as you notice any signs of hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to depressionsocial isolationanxietymore frequent fallsdementia, and more. By seeking professional treatment, you can avoid these problems and start hearing better thanks to new hearing technology, including hearing aids.
Whether your hearing loss is caused by age, excessive loud noises, illness, or any other cause, you can rest assured that hearing technology is advancing quickly. Hearing aids are no longer bulky and difficult to adjust; today’s hearing aids are small, discreet, and come in a variety of colors and designs. Modern hearing aids also come with a variety of features that make them easier to use and integrate into your daily life, like Bluetooth connectivity, rechargeable batteries, and more.
For more information about hearing loss and to schedule an appointment with our skilled hearing professional, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We look forward to caring for you.