Air travel can be fun and exciting. However, I realized it also has its fair share of challenges. For instance, I often experience some discomfort in my ears during take-off and when landing due to airplane pressure.
I bet you’ve gone through the same if you are a frequent air traveler like me. Although the issue doesn’t last long, it can make your travel unpleasant, particularly during take-off and when landing.
The good news is some headphones can help with airplane pressure, ensuring a more comfortable flight.
- Airplane pressure is the pressure difference between the inner ear and the environment (cabin pressure). Senior citizens and young children are more prone to ear discomfort from airplane pressure during air travel.
- Airplane pressure increases or decreases during take-off and when landing. The rapid change in altitude leads to a pressure imbalance, causing discomfort in your ears, albeit briefly.
- Pressure changes can block the Eustachian tube in your ears, causing temporary hearing loss or a stuffed feeling in one or both ears. Wearing headphones or customized earplugs can help reduce the problem.
- Over-ear headphones are particularly suitable for dealing with airplane pressure since they fully cover your ears.
What Causes Your Ears to Pop in an Airplane?
What is Airplane Pressure?
When flying, especially during takeoffs and landings, there is a pressure difference between the pressure in the passenger’s inner ear and the environmental pressure. The pressure in your ears and environmental pressure should be equal. However, as the aircraft ascends or descends, the swift change in altitude causes an imbalance.
During take-off, the ear pressure exceeds environmental pressure. Conversely, ear pressure is usually lower than the environmental pressure during landing. The changes are so rapid that your ears do not have time to adjust, leading to some discomfort.
Cabin Pressurization Explained
Pressure changes can block the Eustachian tube in your ears, causing temporary hearing loss or a stuffed feeling in one or both ears. Your eardrums might bulge out, or your ears might pop out. The problem usually lasts a few seconds. However, in severe cases, you may experience pain or develop barotrauma, which can cause ear damage.
Wearing headphones might help with airplane pressure. It all depends on the individual and the headphones used. Some individuals might experience a difference, while others might not notice any significant changes.
Which Headphones Help with Airplane Pressure?
As stated, not all headphones help with airplane pressure. Over-the-ear headphones are your best bet since they cover both ears without leaving space.
This headset goes around your ears, covering the inner ears and allowing them to adjust to the external pressure without causing discomfort. You might feel slight stuffing, but it won’t be as adverse as flying without headphones.
They give your inner ears time to adjust to the external pressure hence preventing the Eustachian tubes from blocking due to pressure changes.
Listening to soft music can also help prevent the Eustachian tube from blocking. The sound frequencies from the headphones open up the inner ear, giving it time to adjust to the external air pressure.
You can also consider wearing aviation headsets. These headphones are suitable for air travel. They have premium features such as noise-canceling for optimum comfort and hearing protection during long flights. They block external noises while reducing stress on the eardrums during take-off and when landing.
In-ear headphones are not ideal for this scenario. Wearing them for extended periods can lead to wax build-up, blocking the inner ear. Blocked Eustachian tubes will hinder your ears from balancing or equalizing ear and environmental pressure. For this reason, consider over-ear over in-ear headphones for your air travel.
Ways to Prevent/Reduce Ear Pain when Flying
When Should You Wear Headphones When On a Plane?
Even though headphones can help with airplane pressure, wearing them for extended periods can be tedious.
After all, pressure changes occur at specific times of the flight, during take-off and landing.
It rarely fluctuates when you are already airborne. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense to wear headphones throughout the flight.
Other Ways to Reduce Airplane Pressure
As you already know, the effectiveness of headphones in reducing airplane pressure depends on the individual. Some people find them helpful, while others do not experience any significant difference.
Fortunately, you can use other strategies to reduce airplane pressure for a more comfortable flight. Here are a few tips:
Chewing gum during take-off and landing can help ease pressure from your ears. It entails moving your jaws, opening up the Eustachian tubes, and releasing tension from your inner ears.
Yawning or Swallowing
Yawning or swallowing something can help manage airplane pressure. It opens blocked Eustachian tubes, allowing air to flow into the middle ear. Your ears will have adequate time to adjust to the pressure changes.
The Frenzel maneuver or equalization is a breathing technique for balancing air pressure in the middle ear. It involves closing the vocal fold or soft palate and using your tongue and throat to push air into the nasal cavity.
Frenzel Equalization Explained
The Valsalva maneuver is another breathing technique suitable for equalizing air pressure. It increases intrapulmonary pressure by closing the nose and mouth simultaneously and opening them systematically. This method pushes air from the lungs into your middle ear, equalizing air pressure.
Valsalva Maneuver and Other Ear Pressure Equalization Techniques
Frequently Asked Questions
- Question: Why do I feel pressure in my ears when I wear headphones?
- Answer: You might feel pressure in your ears when you first wear headphones. The feeling is cognitive, as your brain perceives the lack of sound as a pressure imbalance between your outer and inner ears. The feeling goes away after a few seconds of wearing the headset.
- Question: Should you wear headphones when flying?
- Answer: You can wear headphones when flying to help with airplane pressure and noise isolation. The rapid pressure changes cause an imbalance in your inner ear, leading to discomfort. Wearing headphones can help reduce ear pressure and block external noises. However, wearing them for extended periods can be tiring. Consider putting headphones on during take-off and when landing.
- Question: Do headphones help with airplane pressure when flying?
- Answer: Wearing headphones might or might not help with airplane pressure. It all depends on the individual and the headphones used. Some people find them helpful, while others do not experience any significant difference. Besides, not all headphones are effective in dealing with airplane pressure. Over-ear headphones are suitable since they cover your entire ears.
- Question: Can airplane pressure damage your ears?
- Answer: Airplane pressure can damage your ears. The pressure imbalance can block your inner ears, leading to pain and discomfort. It can also cause temporary hearing loss or a stuffed feeling in one or both ears. Some people develop barotrauma, a medical condition that can cause ear damage. Senior citizens and young children are more prone to ear problems from airplane pressure during air travel.
- Question: Why do airplane pilots wear headphones?
- Answer: Airplane pilots wear headphones for communication, hearing protection, and noise cancellation. Aviation headsets might also help reduce airplane pressure during take-off and landing.
Airplane pressure can make your flight uncomfortable. As the aircraft ascends or descends, you may experience discomfort in one or both ears. Pressure differences between the inner ear and the environment can cause issues.
However, you don’t have to dread flying because of changes in airplane pressure. Wearing a good pair of over-the-ear headphones can ease the stress in your ears, ensuring a more comfortable flight.
The effectiveness of this option is debatable and depends on the individual. Some people might not experience a significant difference even with headphones on. Whatever the case, consider wearing headphones during your next flight and notice the difference.