Why Your Ears Get Clogged When You Fly and How to Prevent It Posted on April 28, 2022 by Advanced ENT & Allergy If you’ve ever flown before, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced a feeling of fullness or pressure in your ears, particularly during takeoff and landing. Research estimates that 10% of adults and 22% of children experience changes to their eardrums after a flight. This is known as airplane ear, and it’s caused by the change in pressure that happens due to a change in altitudes. Symptoms of Airplane Ear You can experience airplane ear in one or both of your ears. Common symptoms include: A feeling of fullness in your earMuffled hearingModerate ear pain or discomfortSlight hearing loss While less common, in severe cases you may experience: Intense pain or pressureModerate to severe hearing lossTinnitusVertigoRuptured eardrum Less severe symptoms often resolve quickly on their own or with the help of a few self-care methods. However, if you are experiencing discomfort when you fly, it’s important to know that there are ways to prevent it from interfering with your trip. How to Prevent Ear Pain When Flying Use filtered earplugs. Not only do they stagger external air pressure to reduce your ear pain, but they also can help protect your ears from loud noises that can accompany flying. You can find them at most drugstores, or you can even pick some up right before your trip at one of the shops at Newark Airport.Chew gum, yawn or suck on hard candy. These actions help to open the Eustachian tubes in your ears, which can alleviate pressure.Try maneuvers to alleviate pressure. During takeoff, try the Toynbee maneuver, which involves pinching your nose together and taking a few sips of water at the same time. During landing, you can try the Valsalva maneuver. Gently breathe out while pinching your nose and keeping your mouth closed. You may have to do this several times before your ears pop. Should You Fly if You Have a Cold? If you are experiencing nasal congestion or clogged ears before flying due to a cold or allergies, you may be at a greater risk of airplane ear. If possible, you might want to consider changing your travel plans (especially if you’re contagious!) However, that often isn’t a viable option. If you do travel, use an over-the-counter nasal spray 30 minutes before takeoff and again 30 minutes before landing. You can also take allergy medications or decongestants an hour before your flight. What to Do if Ears Stay Clogged It’s not uncommon for your ears to stay clogged for a while after landing. You can try the Valsalva maneuver again, or you can steam your ears by placing your head over a bowl of boiling water and covering your head with a towel to create a tent. If your symptoms persist or are especially painful, make an appointment with a medical provider. For additional questions or to schedule an appointment with one of our experts, call Advanced ENT & Allergy today.