How to Unpop Your Ears After Flying


Things You'll Need

  • Gum or hard candy
  • Nasal decongestant pill or spray
  • Ear plugs
Pain in ears.
Pain in ears. (Image: AnaAdo/iStock/Getty Images)

According to Howard Francis, associate professor of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins University, about one-third of fliers experience pain or clogging in their ears when traveling. Commonly referred to as “airplane ear,” the sensation of pressure in the ear during and after flight is caused by stress exerted on the eardrum and other tissues in the middle ear. According to the Mayo Clinic, sudden changes in air pressure can cause airplane ear, but the painful feeling can be eradicated in a few steps.

Valsava Maneuver

Step 1

Pinch your nostrils on both sides and close your mouth.

Closed mouth.
Closed mouth. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Step 2

Exhale and blow air against your cheeks. You should hear a popping noise, which means the air pressure in your ear is being equalized.

Exhaling. (Image: jacus/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 3

Repeat periodically, particularly during flight takeoff and landing.

Exhaling and blowing air against cheeks.
Exhaling and blowing air against cheeks. (Image: Denis Belyaevskiy/iStock/Getty Images)

Other Methods

Step 1

Chew gum or eat hard candy, which will make you swallow more frequently. Swallowing opens the Eustachian tube in your middle ear, which connects the back of the nose to the middle ear. By activating the Eustachian tube, pressure in your ear is equalized. Yawning also triggers the muscle that activates the Eustachian tube.

Chewing gum will help open blocked ears.
Chewing gum will help open blocked ears. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Step 2

Take a decongestant pill or nasal spray about an hour before your flight. According to Health Central, decongestants with oxymetazoline hydrochloride will shrink the membranes in your nasal passages and help your ears pop easily.

Woman with nasal spray.
Woman with nasal spray. (Image: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Step 3

Wear pressure-reducing ear plugs, which can be purchased from most pharmacies and general retailers. The specialized ear plugs restrict airflow to the ear, allowing the inner ear to more smoothly adjust to rapid changes in air pressure.

Pressure reducing ear plugs.
Pressure reducing ear plugs. (Image: omada/iStock/Getty Images)

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