AIRPLANE EAR - WatsonsHealth


Airplane Ear also called as ear barotrauma is commonly experienced during airplane flights or climbing into high altitudes. Air pressure in this areas exerts stress to the ear drum and other middle ear tissues that results to stuffed-up feeling in the ear, pain and partial hearing loss. In most cases, airplane ear can be self-treated, however, some severe cases may need a call for a doctor.

Symptoms may include the following and may affect one or both ears.

  • Severe Pain or Discomfort in the Ear
  • Moderate to Severe Hearing Loss
  • Feeling of Fullness or Stuffiness in the Ear
  • Ringing in the Ear
  • Vertigo (Spinning Sensation)
  • Vomiting due to Vertigo
  • Bleeding from the Ear


A physical exam may be done through the use of a lighted instrument called otoscope. This may be used to see physical implications of the disease such as slight outward or inward bulging of the eardrum. A tear in the eardrum or a pool of blood in the ear may indicate a more serious damage.

A hearing test may be used to determine your ability to clearly hear sounds amd to know if the possible cause of your hearing problem is in the inner ear.



Airplane ear is not serious and symptoms usually responds to self-care treatments. Some other steps such as yawning, swallowing or chewing gums during air flights may correct the problem. Severe complications may be brought by serious conditions such as damaged to middle or inner structures.

Treatments may include:

  • Medications – There are drugs that may control airplane ear in a short term. (Decongestant nasal sprays, Oral decongestants, Oral antihistamines. To help treat discomfort, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug may be recommended by the doctor. (Advil, Motrin IB)
  • Surgery – This option is rarely used to treat airplane ear. The doctor may cut a part in your eardrum (myringotomy) to equalize ear pressure and drain fluids. Surgery may also be used to treat severe injuries such as ruptured membranes and eardrum.



Several steps may be done to avoid airplane ear. These may include:

  • Yawning, swallowing or chewing gums during air flights.
  • Gently blow your nose while pinching your nostrils and keeping your mouth closed (Valsalva maneur). This may equalize pressure in the ear.
  • Use filtered earplugs.
  • Take medications such as decongestant nasal spray or oral decongestant pills.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages.

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