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Anyone who has ever flown on a plane will tell you they have experienced a need to “pop” their ears during take-off or landing, or sometimes during the flight itself. While this is merely an annoyance as opposed to anything serious, it is good to know how to pop your ears when required, in order to remain comfortable.
It is not just flying though, there are other situations that leave us needing to pop our ears. Whenever there is an imbalance of the air pressure on one of our eardrums, it makes them feel plugged up and hearing can seem muffled; the ear feels like it needs to “pop”. Another common cause of needing to pop our ears is scuba diving.
This feeling is experienced in the eustachian tube and is caused by a blockage or obstruction. When the pressure of the air that is already in the ear cannot be equalized it can create a vacuum, which means that the ear drum itself is unable to vibrate; it is this that causes the muffled sounds and/or difficulty hearing and re-creating the balance of pressure in this tube will create the sensation of popping your ears.
Other times we need to know how to pop our ears is when we are sick; ears can get clogged up as a result of the common cold because the sinuses and the ears are connected inside your head; so, let’s explore how to get your ears you pop whether it’s due to a pressure imbalance, or how you can pop your ears when you have a cold.
The below options are provided in the order that they should be tried, in order to pop your ears; if the first doesn’t work, move onto the next and so-on until you feel or hear the popping of your ears.
The first and easiest option when the ear feels like it needs to pop, is to swallow; this causes the eustachian tube to open, equalizing the pressure.
Yawning will also open up the eustachian tube, allowing air to flow in which will get your ear to pop.
Try to open your mouth slowly as you yawn, thrusting your jaw forward will ensure you reach a complete yawn, you will hear yourself making your ear pop and feel the pressure get back to normal.
The Valsalva Maneuver:
This procedure will not only get your ears to pop, but it can also reduce any pain you may be experiencing.
The Toynbee Maneuver:
This is where you get the ears to pop by swallowing with a pinch nose and closed mouth.
The above methods are useful when you need to know how to pop your ears due to a normal imbalance. Note that if you are unblocking your ears during a flight, you will need to continue these exercises even after landing to ensure the pressure remains in balance.
If you are flying with a baby or an infant, it is important to realise that they are unable to pop their own ears, however, we can encourage ear popping by having them suck on a bottle or other item during take-off and landing, feeding them throughout the flight and keeping them awake during the decent.
It is also important to know how to pop your ears when you have a cold. The following are some good options for when you need pop your ears when you are sick.
Use a warm pack or compress
By holding a warm pack, compress or towel against the ear, this causes the eustachian tubes to open, equalizing the air pressure and creating the desired popping of the ears. It will also help to alleviate congestion, another factor of the common cold.
The warmth can also be relaxing and comforting when you are feeling unwell in general!
This is common home remedy when people are suffering from colds, the flu, headaches etc. as the steam helps to loosen any mucus blocking the sinuses. This release will also re-establish balance in the ear once the blockage has been removed and you will eventually hear your ears pop.
This can be done with warm water on its own, or you can add a menthol solution to the water that will help to release the pressure.
The same effect can be achieved by sitting in a hot shower for 10-15 minutes.
If your nasal passageways are blocked, chances are your ears will feel like they need to pop as well. Clearing a blocked nose caused by the flu or cold will have a knock-on effect on popping your ears and this can be done using any over-the-counter medicines from your local pharmacy.
For extra effectiveness, you may want to follow this up with the Valsalva or Toynbee maneuver.
It is important that you do not use these decongestants for an extended period of time, or if you suffer with heart disease, high blood pressure or other heart or thyroid issues.
Please – if you think you may suffer from any of the above, or are in any doubt – CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE USING THEM
If you have tried all of these with no success, or your feel any severe pain or discomfort the next recommendation would be to try your doctor. Professionals are able to use a surgical method (it’s not extreme don’t worry!) which involves inserting ventilation tubes into your ears in order to drain any fluid.
This is a last resort and only for extreme cases so try all the other options to pop your ears first!