Groupe Forget - Polyclinique de l'Oreille
Eustachian tube dysfunction and pain when flying

Why is there so much discomfort in the ears when flying?

Many people complain of discomfort in the ears when the atmospheric pressure changes, like when in the mountains, but this discomfort increases as the pressure change becomes more pronounced, like when landing in a plane.

It can also cause the ears to feel blocked, and lead to hearing loss and pain.
But why?

Pressure regulation relies on the Eustachian tube working correctly. This small tube connects the middle ear to the nose (nasopharynx) and opens in response to pressure changes to balance out the air on each side of the ear drum.

Sometimes, the Eustachian tube takes longer to react or is blocked by nasal congestion, either of which can cause pain or the feeling of blocked ears.


When this happens, try swallowing several times (suck on a candy or drink something), chewing gum or doing the Valsalva manoeuvre (block your nose then blow air into your ears).

Be aware that these symptoms can last from several hours to several days. If they last longer or if you’re concerned, it is recommended to see an ENT doctor and an audiologist to check your ears.

And if you are congested or have fluid in the ear (serous otitis media), it is advised to treat this congestion or see a healthcare professional before flying, to avoid discomfort.

If you have any questions about your hearing or that of a loved one, our hearing health professionals will be happy to answer them.

BY Jenny Turcotte, Audiologist, Polyclinique de l’Oreille

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