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Airplane Ear: Take care of your Kids’ Ear Pain on your next Flight

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Airplane Ear: Take care of your Kids’ Ear Pain on your next Flight
When you hear a baby crying on the flight, it may be because of the airplane ear pain! Our ears can get clogged up for a variety of reasons. One of those is the change in elevations.   Whether you’re travelling through the mountains, or you are on an airplane ascending or descending, you can get the sensation that your ears are being blocked. Sometimes you may also hear a weird sound buzzing in your head due to this.   So, are you one of those who have a lot of trouble flying? Do your ears hurt while flying? Let’s dig into the reasons behind Airplane Ear, and how to take care of your kids’ ears while flying?  

What is an Airplane ear? 

  The airplane ear (ear barotrauma) is the strain on your eardrums that occurs when the air pressure in your middle ear and the air pressure in the environment are not balanced. You might get an airplane ear when you’re on an airplane that’s ascending while take-off or descending while landing.   Airplane ear is also called ear barotrauma, barotitis media or aerotitis media.  

What causes our ears to hurt in an airplane? 

  Our ears are comprised of an outer ear, the middle ear which is also connected to our throat by our eustachian tube. This tube is responsible for keeping the air pressure in our middle ear which equals the air pressure in our outer ear. If the eustachian tube fails at keeping things equal, we get a sensation of clogged ears while on height.   When sound waves enter our ears, they make our eardrums vibrate and are eventually interpreted as sound signals by our brain. Our eardrum is located somewhere between the ear canal and the middle ear. The air present in both these areas can affect the position of our eardrums.   Now, before we take off, the air pressure in the ear canal and middle ear is the same. When the flight begins to take off, air pressure in the aeroplane and the ear canal thus begins to drop. Due to higher air pressure in the middle ear, the eardrum is pushed outwards causing us pain.   Similarly, the opposite happens when the flight lands. Our eardrums are pushed inwards, again causing us pain. So, when you are descending, you have to add more air behind the middle ear to maintain the air pressure balance in the ear.   Ever wondered why the pilot gets on and says “we are about to land in another 15-20 minutes, get ready for the landing”, while you’re snoozing?   They’re waking you up so that your ears have something to equilibrate to the sound of landing.
  • What can you do to avoid pain? Sip-sip-sip! It is the best thing that you can do to avoid pain is to swallow. Your Eustachian tubes open up when you swallow so that’s the most natural activity that you can do.
  • Chewing gum: Chewing on some gum makes you swallow even more as it generates more saliva.
  • Yawning is the best: Yawning is another big stretch to your eustachian tube muscles. Yawning also sheds away that extra laziness that arises from sitting in the same place for a long time. It activates your body and you are prepared to land.
  • Pop it! Some people would do this popping technique where they plug their nose, take a deep breath and gently blow. This technique forces some air up into your Eustachian tubes which generates a popping sound upon the release.

How can parents help their children?

  Babies or toddlers, of course, won’t be able to perform this technique. So, here’s what you can do:   Try waking them up: They aren’t going to swallow or swallow very little while in sleep, so it’s important to wake them up and give them something to drink.  
  •  So, on the descent, make sure they’re drinking something to keep their eustachian tube muscles open and active.
  • Sitting upright: They should be sitting upright rather than lying down. If your baby is under 8 months, or cannot drink on his own, feed them a bottle of milk, or even breastfeed. A pacifier would also help.
  • The briefing is important: Listen to the air attendant’s instructions carefully before take-off. Reach out to them in case of any emergencies.
  Fact Check: Did you know, some airplane attendants help single moms watch their babies as they use lavatories, or even while they have their meals!? It’s cool, right?  

Key Takeaways

  So, now you know what precautions you have to take before taking your next flight. Wishing you a comfortable flight!   Stay tuned to SpeEdLabs for more such amazing stuff!    

Also published on Medium.

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