Soar High Without the Pain: The Ultimate Airplane Ear Remedies Guide

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Ever experienced that sharp, throbbing pain in your ears during a flight? You’re not alone. Airplane ear, also known as ear barotrauma, can make air travel a painful experience. But worry not! In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some effective airplane ear remedies to help make your next flight a breeze.


  • Equalize ear pressure to prevent airplane ear.
  • Try the Valsalva maneuver, Toynbee maneuver, or EarPlanes earplugs.
  • Stay hydrated and avoid caffeine and alcohol during your flight.
  • Consult a doctor if pain persists or worsens.
  • Use preventive measures like wearing filtered earplugs during takeoff and landing.
Don't let airplane ear ruin your trip!

Understanding Airplane Ear

Airplane ear occurs when the air pressure inside your middle ear and the air pressure outside your eardrum become imbalanced. This typically happens during takeoff and landing when the plane’s altitude changes rapidly. The pressure difference can cause pain, discomfort, and even temporary hearing loss.

Effective Airplane Ear Remedies

1. Equalize Ear Pressure

Dr. Michael Benninger, Chairman of the Head and Neck Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, says, “The most effective way to prevent airplane ear is to equalize the pressure in your ears before it becomes painful.” Here are a few techniques to help you do just that:

  • Valsalva maneuver: Pinch your nostrils shut, close your mouth, and gently blow as if you were blowing your nose. This will help equalize the pressure in your ears.
  • Toynbee maneuver: Pinch your nose and swallow. This action can help open the Eustachian tubes and equalize ear pressure.
  • Yawn or chew gum: These actions can help open the Eustachian tubes and alleviate pressure.

2. Use Special Earplugs

A study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine found that using earplugs during takeoff and landing can reduce the risk of developing airplane ear by up to 50%. EarPlanes are a popular brand of earplugs designed specifically for air travel. They have a unique filter that helps regulate air pressure and can be used by both adults and children.

3. Stay Hydrated and Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

Drinking plenty of water can help keep your Eustachian tubes functioning properly. On the other hand, consuming caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate you and make it more challenging for your ears to equalize pressure. Stick to water or herbal tea before and during your flight.

4. Use a Warm Compress

If you’re already experiencing ear pain, applying a warm compress can provide some relief. Soak a washcloth in warm water, wring it out, and hold it against your affected ear for a few minutes. The warmth can help relieve pain and promote blood circulation, which aids in pressure equalization.

5. Consult a Doctor

If your ear pain persists or worsens, it’s crucial to consult a doctor. They can assess your condition and recommend appropriate treatments or medications to help alleviate your symptoms. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe a decongestant or recommend the use of a nasal spray before your flight to help open the Eustachian tubes and reduce the risk of airplane ear.

Preventive Measures for Airplane Ear

While it’s essential to know how to manage airplane ear, taking preventive measures can make your travel experience even more enjoyable. Here are some tips to help you avoid airplane ear during your next flight:

1. Wear Filtered Earplugs

As mentioned earlier, wearing filtered earplugs like EarPlanes during takeoff and landing can significantly reduce your risk of experiencing airplane ear. These earplugs help regulate air pressure in your ears, making it easier for them to adjust to altitude changes.

2. Practice Ear Pressure Equalization Techniques

Before your flight, practice the Valsalva and Toynbee maneuvers to get comfortable with equalizing your ear pressure. Familiarizing yourself with these techniques can make it easier for you to use them effectively during your flight.

3. Avoid Flying with a Cold or Sinus Infection

If you have a cold or sinus infection, your Eustachian tubes may be swollen or congested, making it more difficult for your ears to equalize pressure. If possible, reschedule your flight until you’ve recovered to reduce your risk of experiencing airplane ear.

4. Choose Your Seat Wisely

Sitting near the front of the plane can help reduce your exposure to loud engine noise, which can exacerbate ear pain. Additionally, the air pressure in the front of the plane tends to be more stable, reducing the risk of ear discomfort.

5. Stay Awake During Takeoff and Landing

It’s essential to stay awake during takeoff and landing so that you can actively work on equalizing the pressure in your ears. Falling asleep during these critical moments can make it more challenging to manage ear pressure and increase your risk of experiencing pain.

FAQs About Airplane Ear Remedies

1. Can I use over-the-counter pain relievers for airplane ear?

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate ear pain associated with airplane ear. However, it’s essential to consult a doctor before taking any medications, especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have any pre-existing medical conditions.

2. Can children use the same airplane ear remedies as adults?

Many airplane ear remedies, like the Valsalva and Toynbee maneuvers, can be used by children. However, it’s crucial to teach them these techniques before their flight and supervise them while they’re practicing. For younger children, encouraging them to suck on a pacifier or drink from a bottle during takeoff and landing can help equalize ear pressure.

3. How long does airplane ear usually last?

Most cases of airplane ear resolve within a few hours to a couple of days after your flight. However, if your symptoms persist or worsen, consult a doctor to rule out any complications or infections.

4. Can I prevent airplane ear by taking a decongestant before my flight?

Decongestants can help open up the Eustachian tubes and make it easier for your ears to equalize pressure. However, it’s essential to consult a doctor before taking any medications, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition, are pregnant, or breastfeeding. Also, remember that decongestants are not a guarantee that you won’t experience airplane ear, but they may help reduce your risk.

5. Can I use noise-cancelling headphones to prevent airplane ear?

Noise-cancelling headphones can help reduce the impact of loud engine noise, which can exacerbate ear pain. However, they won’t directly prevent airplane ear, as the primary cause is the change in air pressure, not the noise level. Combining noise-cancelling headphones with other preventive measures, such as using filtered earplugs, may provide additional comfort during your flight.

6. Can frequent flyers develop long-term complications from airplane ear?

Frequent flyers may be at a higher risk of developing complications from airplane ear if they repeatedly experience it. In rare cases, long-term complications may include chronic ear pain, tinnitus, or even hearing loss. To minimize the risk, it’s crucial to practice preventive measures and follow the recommended airplane ear remedies consistently.

7. Are there any alternative remedies for airplane ear?

Some alternative remedies, such as using essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus, may help alleviate ear pain and promote relaxation. However, it’s essential to note that these remedies may not be as effective as the proven techniques and products mentioned in this guide. Always consult a healthcare professional before trying alternative remedies.

8. Can scuba divers experience a similar issue as airplane ear?

Yes, scuba divers can experience a similar issue called “barotrauma,” which occurs when the pressure inside the middle ear and the external water pressure become imbalanced. Divers can equalize their ears using techniques like the Valsalva or Toynbee maneuvers, similar to those used to prevent airplane ear.

9. Can I fly if I have an ear infection?

If you have an ear infection, it’s best to consult a doctor before flying, as the pressure changes during the flight can worsen your symptoms and potentially lead to complications. In some cases, your doctor may recommend postponing your flight until your infection has cleared up.

10. Are some people more prone to airplane ear than others?

Some individuals may be more susceptible to airplane ear due to anatomical differences in their Eustachian tubes, a history of ear infections, or allergies. If you’re concerned about your risk of developing airplane ear, consult a doctor to discuss preventive measures and potential treatment options.


With the right knowledge and techniques, you can prevent and manage airplane ear effectively. By practicing pressure equalization techniques, staying hydrated, using filtered earplugs, and seeking medical advice when necessary, you can ensure a comfortable and pain-free flying experience. So, pack your bags, board that plane, and enjoy your travels without the fear of airplane ear!


Journal of Travel Medicine. (2018). The effectiveness of earplugs as a preventive intervention for reducing the risk of ear pain among air travelers.

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