Ears and Flying: the Definitive (and Printable) Guide

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by | December 18, 2015

Ears and FlyingEars and Flying B
This is your ear. Frequent travelers may be familiar with the pressure that builds up in the middle ear from air getting trapped in your ear canal, causing significant pain to your eardrum. This usually happens during take offs and landings–and don’t get mistaken, the pain can get even worse if you try to sleep through it or are nursing a cold!

One of the best ways to relieve this pressure and to avoid barotrauma (which in severe cases actually requires surgery!) is to relax the muscles and extend the Eustachian tube. Because travel should be nothing but enjoyable, we’ve compiled some of the best ways to help you do so.

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Aka pinching your nose to plug your nostrils and exhaling slowly or making a guttural “guh” sound. Don’t get over eager with this, though, because if you exhale too hard you might cause your ears to blow out instead of pop!

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Similar to the Frenzel Maneuver, you simply pinch your nostrils and swallow to relieve the pressure in your ears.

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Much like chewing gum or swallowing, yawning helps open up your Eustachian tubes, which allows pressure in your ear to equalize with the air pressure outside of it.

If you’re around kids or toddlers that are flying for the first time or are having difficulty, you can help them out by faking a yawn. For some reason yawning is socially contagious, and hopefully your faking one will get them to yawn as well.

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Ear pressure can be especially painful when you’re sick. One way to avoid unnecessary pain from flying is to take a decongestant, which allow you to breathe easier.

Pro-tip: Make sure to time your medication so that the effects last until landing.

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By chewing gum or sucking on a hard candy, you trigger more saliva thus encouraging you to swallow. Much like the Toynbee Maneuver, swallowing helps manipulate the muscles near your Eustachian tube to get your ears to pop pleasantly.

Happy travels!


Do you have any other tricks that will help our ears when flying? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

From city rat to island child, Alexis Betia has done a full 180 in her search for beautiful places. She’s learned the value of turning left where most people turn right, and of reaping the rewards of saying “YES!” to the universe. Books and beaches are her best friends.

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