How to clear your ears when flying

Every time I fly my ears hurt upon decent. It’s been like that for as long as I’ve been flying. My ears just don’t clear themselves on their own. I have  tried chewing gum and yawning and swallowing hard; they will sometimes work to get air into my ears but the technique I’m about to show you works every time.

  1. Tilt your head to the left and back slightly to straighten the Eustachian tube on the right side of your neck
  2. Pinch your nose with your fingers
  3. Blow gently out your nose. The pressure will release from the right ear fairly suddenly and with some discomfort for a few seconds. Best to do it slowly!
  4. Repeat with the other side

I have done just that on tens of flights over tens of years. I usually have to clear both ears 3 times during a decent. I make sure to do the procedure before too much pressure builds up. If there is a lot of pressure, it can be downright painful when the air releases. But the alternative is to be in pain and be partially deaf for an hour or two while the pressure equalizes on its own.

You just need the tiniest bit of air to make it into your ear so go easy!

Most every time I’m in a plane descending, I hear a child start to cry. My last flight, the kid was whining loudly for 30 minutes about all sorts of problems, “Mom, I want to sit with my mommy” (repeated 500 freaking times), “My arm hurts” (repeated 50 freaking times), “I’m thirsty” (repeated and repeated and repeated). I will bet that the kid was suffering from ear pain and didn’t even know it. It’s a really unusual pain that many kids have rarely or never even experienced… they don’t know where it’s coming from… inside their heads? ridiculous!

I  think I’ll write a letter to some airlines and suggest they offer a pamphlet to families titled something like “Mommy, it Hurts! Helping Children Clear Their Ears During Descent“. What do you think?

One Comment

  1. Free says:

    Alas, parents generally know that the problem is ear pain. What they don’t know is how to teach their kids to stop it. Even many adults cannot manage the technique you describe, which makes it hard for them to teach to their children. And of course, very young children aren’t going to understand it anyway. So the parents are left with much less effective alternatives–trying to get a baby to nurse (supposedly helps, except the baby will probably refuse to nurse when in pain), using pacifiers, giving the kids chewing gum, etc. And meanwhile, the parents are getting harassed by their kids on the one hand, and by the other passengers irritated by their kids on the other.

    I actually taught my kids this technique when they were quite young. However, I still had way too many flights before that when I was trying to figure out whether I could discreetly drop the kid out the window without anyone noticing.

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