I fly to Sweden roughly every third or fourth weekend. Flying is something I enjoy (even the turbulence) but on the descent fellow passengers look at me strangely because I’m holding the side of my ears. For some reason I seem unusually susceptible to the air pressure. Other flyers rarely display discomfort but for myself the return to ground is uncommonly painful. After exiting the plane I am often deaf in my left ear, (which can last over twenty four hours) and the first day is always tainted by the changes in air pressure. For example, if I burp, blow my nose or stand up too quickly something in the side of my head feels as if it has burst.
I have done a few online searches and asked friends if they happen to know the cause or cure. The cause of the problem has been fairly easy to unearth: The changes of air pressure in the plane result in stretching of the ear drum either inward (flying upwards) or outward (flying downward). There is a small tube within the ear known as the Eustachian tube, which runs between the middle ear and nose. It acts as a pressure valve and the “popping” sensation when flying is the tube releaving the pressure to the normal equilibrium. Correct functioning of the Eustachian tube would allow the ear drum to maintain its proper positioning and remove the discomfort experienced in flight.
For some people the Eustachian tube does not function as designed. However, there are several simple remedies to promote the tube into fulfilling its purpose: Chewing gum; sucking hard boiled sweets; drinking a none alcoholic beverage; swallowing and even yawning. Unfortunately, none of these methods seem to work for myself, even removing earrings and abstaining from caffeine for the day.
A friend recently suggested that she had the same issue until she went scuba diving. Apparently the changes in water pressure experienced in the sport have a similar effect as those in flight. Initially, I doubted whether it was worth paying for scuba diving lessons until I read some disturbing anecdotes. Apparently, there are frequent cases of fliers with colds or blocked sinuses whose ear drums burst, covering themselves and fellow passengers with blood and other bodily fluids. Until I read this I thought I’d just live with the pain, after all it’s only one or two days a month. Today, I fill the bath with as much water as it can hold and dive as deep as possible.