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This seems to be a problem for more people than I thought.

Some time ago I had written a column in the Winnipeg Free Press suggesting the use of the product Ear Planes to help alleviate the pain so many get when they fly on most aircraft.

After the column ran, I got an email from a person who wrote, “I assume professionals who travel frequently or pilots who spend so much of their lives in the air must also suffer from ear pain at times. What do you think they do?”

The writer than went on to explain the reason that the pain occurs is that the small tube from the inside of the throat to the middle ear is pinched shut, which doesn’t allow air pressure inside the ear to equalize with the atmospheric air pressure.

 

This tube is called the Eustachian tube, and it’s like a thin tube of cooked macaroni. When the aircraft gains altitude the cabin pressure drops, and any higher-pressure air in the Eustachian tube escapes, thus equalizing the pressure and causing no discomfort.

 

This tube is called the Eustachian tube, and it’s like a thin tube of cooked macaroni. When the aircraft gains altitude the cabin pressure drops, and any higher-pressure air in the Eustachian tube escapes, thus equalizing the pressure and causing no discomfort.

However, when the aircraft quickly descends in order to land that cooked macaroni tube can be pinched shut as a result of the new, higher air pressure in the cabin, as compared to the very low air pressure in the Eustachian tube.

So instead of equalizing air pressure between the cabin air and that lower pressure inside the inner ear, the tube is shut. This result is a lower pressure on the inside of our eardrum, and an increasingly higher one on the outside. This pushes the eardrum inwards, causing sometimes excruciating pain.

It was a former air force pilot who came up with the best suggestion. He passed on this aircrew solution that he picked up via the School of Aerospace Medicine. Pilots pressurize the inside of their chest and throat in order to equalize the pressure inside and out. It’s called the Valsalva manoeuvre.

It goes like this. Close the mouth, pinch the nose closed, and tilt the head to one side, and blow really hard without letting any air out. Do it again for the other side. If you do it right, you’ll hear a faint pop as your eardrum reverts. Things will sound funny, so just yawn and you’ll feel both ears reverting to normal.

You can practise this in an elevator in a tall building. As the elevator descends, you’ll notice inward pressure on your eardrums. As soon as you get this feeling, do the Valsalva on both sides and your ears should clear. Keep monitoring your ears as you descend and carry out the procedure as often as necessary.

Try it and let me know how it works.

So for most people it is good to have the products, like EarPlanes that are readily available to help relieve ear pressure during take-off and landing.

But do try to use the Valsalva method as well.