Popping your ears can happen while flying

Originally posted 7/23/21
Updated 4/10/23

Have you ever felt pressure in your ears that you wanted to relieve? Have you ever popped your ears to do so? Have you then wondered, “Is what I just did safe?”

What does it mean to pop your ears?

Your ears are connected to your throat through a pathway called the Eustachian tube. Part of its main functions is to relieve pressure that builds up over time or as a result of illness. Popping your ears occurs when the Eustachian tube opens equalize this pressure between your inner and middle ear. This can happen naturally, such as when you’re flying or climbing at a high altitude, or it can be done by the individual. 

Is it safe to pop your ears?

If you're concerned that popping your ears will cause injury, don’t worry. This action is considered perfectly safe. In fact, popping your ears can help relieve any pain associated with clogged ears and unequal ear pressure.

What are safe ways to pop my ears?

Rather than waiting to board a plane or go hiking, there are a number of easy, safe ways to pop your ears at home.

Eating or swallowing

First, try swallowing, chewing gum, or sucking on hard candy. Swallowing activates the muscles that open the Eustachian tube by bringing air from the back of the throat to the ear and vice versa. As a result, it pops your ears. If you are with a baby who needs to equalize their ear pressure, a bottle or pacifier can help create the same conditions to open their Eustachian tube. 


Yawning can help pop your ears too. Much like swallowing, your Eustachian tubes open and air circulates between your middle ear and throat. If you're not sleepy or around someone who is who can induce this condition, you can mimic yawning to draw the air between the pathway.

The Valsalva maneuver 

Another thing you can try is to pinch your nostrils closed and gently try to expel air through your nose. This method, called the Valsalva maneuver, creates pressure in the back of your nose that may open the Eustachian tube. A word of caution: do not blow your nose too hard. Trying to expel air too forcefully could potentially cause a ruptured eardrum.


One of the easiest ways to pop your ears is with good old-fashioned heat. Applying a warm washcloth or using a heating pad can clear congestion in your ear and allow your Eustachian tube to open better, creating the needed airflow. On top of that, the heat may help sooth any pain you may feel.

What are some medical ways to relieve ear pressure?

If you need a little extra help unclogging your ears, over-the-counter nasal decongestants and steroids may help. Just remember to follow the instructions before use and to visit a doctor if they don’t help.

If all else fails, ear tubes could be the solution you need to equalize your ear pressure. Ear tubes are an extremely common procedure, especially among babies and small children. It only takes a surgeon about ten minutes to insert ear tubes, and they eventually fall out on their own.

Ear care at CEENTA

Popping your ears is a safe, effective way to equalize your ear pressure, but if your at-home attempts don’t work, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a CEENTA doctor. They will help make sure your ears are healthy and don’t have any pressure-related problems.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New patients can make appointments online with our physicians in North and South Carolina. Current patients can also make appointments through myCEENTAchart with physicians they have already seen.


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