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Many people are planning to take a long trip this summer, and that means going on a flight. But not everyone likes flying, especially those people whose ears hurt during takeoff and landing. What causes that pain and how can you prevent it? Read on to learn how to give your ears a pain-free vacation.

What is causing this ear pain?

When the plane takes off, the air pressure outside your ear decreases, and when it lands, the pressure increases. So, during takeoff the air in your ear pushes out against the eardrum, and when you land the eardrum is sucked inward.

While the Eustachian tubes in your ears normally help equalize the pressure, during takeoff and landing they can’t keep up with the rapid pressure changes. Thus, the pressure changes can cause pain and discomfort.

This pressure can be extra painful for young children because their Eustachian tubes are smaller and might not function as well as they should. While it’s uncomfortable enough to make many babies cry, it’s only a temporary pain.

Is there anything I can do to treat my ear pain?

“There are preventative steps you can take to equalize air pressure during takeoffs and landings,” CEENTA ENT doctor Ross Udoff, MD, said. ““No one wants their vacation to get off to a painful start.”

You can:

  • Drink plenty of decaffeinated fluids during the flight, especially water
  • Swallow or yawn frequently during takeoff and landing
  • Chew gum or suck on a candy (not recommended for children under the age of 3)
  • Give your baby a bottle or pacifier

CEENTA ENT doctor Ross Udoff, MD

Once the air pressure equalizes, the pain should go away. If it last for more than a few hours after landing, though, you should call you or your child’s doctor. Also, for some people these techniques may not work. If you fly frequently and have chronic issues with pressure or pain, your ENT doctor may recommend placing small pressure equalization tubes, Dr. Udoff said.

It is recommended you not fly if you or your child has an ear infection, as the pressure changes could increase the pain or even cause the eardrum to tear. Children with ear tubes, on the other hand, may have less pain because the pressure equalizes more easily.

Takeoffs and landings can be painful, but following these recommendations could help make your flight easier.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. Dr. Udoff practices in our Monroe office. To schedule an appointment with him or any of our ENT doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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October 18, 2020

Most of the time I experience pain when I fly, but the worse was two years ago I experienced excruciating pain which brought me to tears. Since that time I am still having problems and keep getting high pitched noises in both ears.
- Wendy

October 19, 2020

Good morning. We are sorry to hear about your issues. If you live in the Charlotte, NC, region and would like an appointment with one of our ENT physicians, please call 704-295-3000. Thank you.
Reply From: CEENTA

May 25, 2020

I used to have severe pain every time I flew but I used 'BioEars Soft Silicone Earplugs' which greatly reduced the pressure and pain. So I highly suggest them to anyone else who experiences this.
- Lauren

May 22, 2019

would be glad if you share the remedies for this when you find something helpful. it makes flying scary :-(
- T.O.D

May 22, 2019

Good morning. If you or your child's ears hurt when you're flying, you can equalize pressure during takeoffs and landings by drinking plenty of decaffeinated fluids during the flight, especially water, swallow or yawn frequently during takeoff and landing, chew gum or suck on a candy if you or your child is over the age of 3, and give your baby a bottle or pacifier.
Reply From: CEENTA

May 20, 2019

Still i was in a twin otter flight and then the ear pain was unbearable even though there was chewing gum going on but it did not help...Why isn't it effective and it was a very unpleasant journey for me...................
- su

May 21, 2019

Good morning. Your doctor may be able to help you determine the cause of your particular issues. We are unfortunately unable to diagnose patients over the Internet.
Reply From: CEENTA

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