How to Unplug Your Ear

Plugged Ears Distracting Pilots? Eustachian Tubes – Clear Left, Clear Right

Plugged ears and other middle ear issues (ear pressure, ear pain, clogged ears, and hearing loss) can be a problem during descent and landing- a critical time of concentration for pilots.

Gauges and checklists focus on the "health" of the aircraft, but what about the health of the pilot, the most important part of aviation? Life happens even at 37,000 feet and with life comes physical issues pilots must deal with to eliminate distraction when flying a plane. Flying with congestion and plugged ears- whether from a cold or allergies can quickly cause ear pressure and excruciating pain during descent and for days after a flight.

For pilots, landing a plane is one time when focus is paramount and a physical distraction dangerous. With descent comes changing altitude – a crucial time for ear pressure to be regulated. This is why congestion, clogged ears, and ear issues can ground even the best of pilots.

Normally yawning, opening and closing the mouth, or doing the Valsalva Maneuver can help to open the Eustachian Tube (the little "pop" we hear) to regulate the pressure in the middle ear with the outside environment.

But what happens when yawning, Valsalva, or chewing gum doesn't work? What happens when congestion from allergies or a cold prevent the little tube from opening and regulating inner ear pressure?

As changes in the middle ear cavity build, pressure and pain can become an issue for even the best pilots. This negative pressure may create a vacuum, pulling the tympanic membrane inward and fluid from the surrounding tissue into the middle ear cavity. The inward pull of the tympanic membrane combined with the pressure of fluid can result in hearing loss, a feeling of fullness, and pain.

Fluid in the middle ear cavity is ideal for infection (warm, moist environment). Bacteria from upper respiratory infections love to take up residence in this fluid and may result in horrific ear infection symptoms.

The Eustachian Tube plays a key role in equalizing pressure for pilots as well as preventing further ear issues. Learning different techniques to help open this tube can make a world of difference for those flying with congestion or in a rapid descent.

Fully functioning instruments are vital to flight for aircraft. Fully functioning ears are vital to pilots to avoid distraction, pain, and hearing loss.

"Clear Left…Clear Right" has a whole new meaning with Eustachian Tubes!

Are your ears ready for flight?

Anya Clowers is a registered nurse, consultant, and travel expert. Anya values quality of life and travel, and has researched "Products Worth Packing" for travelers of all ages. Plugged ears are an issue for many travelers, and "EarPopperNurse" (Anya Clowers, RN) has found the EarPopper to be an effective treatment solution to eliminate ear issues from negative middle ear pressure after flying, scuba diving, colds, and allergies. Visit the EarPopper website and EarPopper blog for more information about this clinically-proven medical device.

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