Ear Pain with Pressure Change

Do you Suffer from Ear pain with Diving and Flying?

Many people experience ear pain when they dive or fly. Many people feel that they cannot dive because they have trouble “clearing” their ears even when in a swimming pool. The middle ear space lives at normal atmospheric pressure, the same pressure in our environment. That pressure is regulated by the Eustachian tube. This tube ventilates the middle ear space and opens into the back of the nose. The act of breathing through the nose will allow air into the middle ear space through the Eustachian tube. This Eustachian tube opens and closes as needed to allow the correct pressure in the ears. The act of swallowing and chewing will help open this tube as the palatal muscles are attached to the Eustachian tube. This is why chewing and swallowing are natural for us when we are landing on an airplane and the ears feel pain or pressure.

What Causes Ear Pressure and Pain When Flying or Diving?

Rapid decent on an airplane or rapid decent on a dive will not allow the Eustachian tubes to open properly and causes a pain from a build up of negative pressure in the ears. This can lead to middle ear fluid, especially when in addition having cold like symptoms. In some cases the pressure build up can be so bad that it can lead to a ruptured ear drum. Some people do have chronic Eustachian tube problems and no amount of medicine or surgical procedures will give them relief. This is rare however.

What Treatment is Available?

Simple treatment options for flying are ; not to fly when you’re sick (if you can avoid it), use Sudafed, nasal Afrin spray before flying and also prior to landing if on long flights (Use Afrin in very limited amounts as it can be chronically addictive). “Ear planes” are plugs that can be worn while flying and specifically landing, and can help equalize pressure. Stay hydrated as the mucous membranes can get sticky when not well hydrated and make ear congestion worse. Gum chewing on landing can be helpful as well. When attempting to dive, if having pain, you should not go down further. Try to go down very slowly, Sudafed before a dive is very helpful for some people. Make sure the dose is low, 30 mg, as Sudafed can make you a bit jittery and anxious, not a feeling you want when you are under water and trying to relax.

If these techniques do not help, consult with Dr. Stacy Silvers at Madison ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery on Madison Avenue of New York City.