|This information is intended to help you understand more about the ear or sinus pain that you are concerned you may experience on an upcoming airplane flight.|
First, let us explain to you how ear pain occurs when the plane descends for landing. There is a tube that connects the back of your throat to the area just behind your eardrum that is called the eustachian tube. The eustachian tube function is to equalize the pressure in the air behind your eardrum with the air around you. Because of inflammation or infection, swelling around the tube will occur causing the tube to not function properly.
Air pressure is not able to equalize behind the eardrum, causing ear pain as the eardrum adjusts to the abnormal pressure changes. When the pressure equalizes behind the eardrum, we frequently say that the ears have popped. Normally when the plane is taking off and ascending, ear pain is not a problem because air can easily escape from behind the eardrum, through the eustachian tube, and into the throat. However, when the plane descends, air must be forced through the congested eustachian tube into the area behind the eardrum, which can be more difficult. Therefore, ear pain will almost always be experienced on descent if there is any problem at all.
In order to maximize the ability of the eustachian tube and sinus passageways to work, we will give you a few helpful hints:
We hope this information helps you with your problem with flying. Our goal is to keep you well informed about this problem so that you may avoid the discomfort that is associated with it.
PLEASE NOTE: You should avoid flying if your nose is congested from a cold or allergies. In the most severe case, this may lead to a permanent decrease in your hearing, prolonged dizziness, or severe pain. Most patients who experience a decrease in hearing associated with severe pain after a plane flight have a readily reversible hearing loss and should be seen by an otolaryngologist (ENT) within several days of the event, as this makes it easier to correct the problem.