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Problems with ears on flight

Hello!

This one is being posted for my other half who has major issues when we fly. He has incredibly sensitive ears (he used to work as an audio engineer), and on many flights he has problems with ear pressure/stopped up ears.

We have tried everything OTC that we could find. Sudafed. Flonase. Afrin. He knows to swallow during the flight. We've even tried ear plugs that are supposed to help with the ear pressure. Nothing works 100% of the time.

Do you know of any OTC remedy that can be used for someone with sensitive ears on a flight? Thank you very much in advance!

Posted by
1199 posts

Instead of swallowing I use this method. Pinch both nostrils closed. Keeping your mouth closed exhale gently as if to blow your nose. It seems to open up the Eustachian tubes consistently. Sorry I can't help with the OTC meds.

Posted by
17 posts

Chewing gum never worked for me. In fact, the only thing that helps is yawning while decending and gently blowing my nose once we've landed. I would certainly be interested if there was some magic OTC med that would help.

Posted by
2349 posts

If ear wax is the problem, see the doctor a few weeks before the flight. Removing it can cause some inflammation, so you want that to be gone before flying.

Posted by
2637 posts

If all of these failed, I would not search through a myriad of OTC solutions that may or may not help. Pay a visit to an eye, nose and throat doctor to make sure that there is no physical problem causing these symptoms.

Posted by
6570 posts

Benadryl or other antihistamines work well.

Posted by
6570 posts

Benadryl or other antihistamines work well.

Posted by
6570 posts

Benadryl or other antihistamines work well.

Posted by
6570 posts

Benadryl or other antihistamines work well.

Posted by
2799 posts

This is a question for an ENT doctor. He or she can diagnose the problem and suggest a suitable remedy.

Posted by
489 posts

I have the same problem. I dreaded to fly because of it. So while at London Heathrow a few years back, we stopped in at Boots pharmacy and asked the pharmacist for a recommendation. She recommended three OTC possibilities and left it up to me to decide which to pick. So, I bought all three of them.

The one that worked for me is the NeilMed NasoGel. I now get it from Walgreens online. I don't fly without it.

Posted by
3176 posts

I'll second the suggestion of your partner making an appointment with an ENT for a solution. Unless I'm suffering with a cold, I chew gum and keep bottled water with me so I can swallow. I also sit in an aisle seat because of that water.

Posted by
157 posts

For me the problem ended up being ear wax. I now use hydrogen peroxide to keep the wax soft. I will still pack gum, EarPlanes, and antihistamines, but after faithfully using the hydrogen peroxide before our last trip to Europe, I didn't need any of those things.

Posted by
293 posts

Forgive me, @continental, why does an aisle seat have anything to do with bottled water?

Posted by
3176 posts

Think about it, Shelley.....if you're drinking lots of water as I always do in flight, the liquid is only 'a rental'. It has to go someplace. This applies to coffee, tea, beer, etc. :-)

Posted by
434 posts

I've always had good luck with Afrin. But I have to have a dose before I fly and a second dose as we are starting the descent. Good luck.

Posted by
5663 posts

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/airplane-ear/home/ovc-20200626

Usually self-care steps — such as yawning, swallowing or chewing gum —
can prevent or correct the differences in air pressure and improve
airplane ear symptoms. However, a severe case of airplane ear may need
to be treated by a doctor.

Since you/he has tried everything, a ENT would be a better source of diagnosis and advice that a RS forum.

Your doctor will likely be able to make a diagnosis based on questions
he or she asks and an examination of your ear with a lighted
instrument (otoscope). Signs of airplane ear might include a slight
outward or inward bulging of your eardrum. If your condition is more
severe, your doctor may see a tear in the eardrum or a pooling of
blood or other fluids behind your eardrum.

Medications

Your doctor may prescribe medications or direct you to take
over-the-counter medications to control conditions that may prevent
the eustachian tubes from functioning well. These drugs may include:

Decongestant nasal sprays Oral decongestants Oral antihistamines To
ease discomfort, you may want to take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drug, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium
(Aleve, others), or an analgesic pain reliever, such as acetaminophen
(Tylenol, others).

Self-care therapies

With your drug treatment, your doctor will instruct you to use a
self-care method called the Valsalva maneuver. To do this, you pinch
your nostrils shut, close your mouth and gently force air into the
back of your nose, as if you were blowing your nose. Once the
medications have improved the function of the eustachian tubes, use of
the Valsalva maneuver may force the tubes open.

Posted by
362 posts

First of all, thanks for all the responses! :-) I’ve already read them to my other half.

His current regimen of decongestants/Afrin/other nasal sprays was already the recommendation of his regular doctor. I’ve also suggested that he should see an ENT on numerous occasions, but that suggestion has always fallen on deaf ears.

So while I’m still making that same recommendation to him of a visit to an actual ear doctor, I thought I’d check here on the forum for anything OTC that he hasn't tried yet. I figured that somebody else here would also have had an ear issue in the past on flights.

Funny thing is, his ears doesn’t always bother him on every flight. It’s just certain legs of certain routes that seem to do a number on his ears.

Anyway, thank you again for all of your suggestions! They are greatly appreciated.

Posted by
247 posts

I have lots of trouble with my ears on airplanes when I have a cold. Several years ago I stumbled across an item called EarEase®. It is basically a reservoir made of plastic that holds hot water and fits over the ear. You load it up, close it tightly so that you stay dry and then hold it over an ear. The theory is that the heat will relieve pain by helping to equalize the pressure in the inner ear. It does sound plausible since we know from physics class that heat applied to an enclosed gas will change the pressure in the gas. And I believe that application of warm compresses to the ear was a common pain relief technique before the use of amoxicillin for earaches became so common. Since the item is fairly small & lightweight, I've been flying with it ever since I purchased one. However I can't say whether or not it works for me, because I haven't flown with a cold since then. I see it is still for sale on the Web. If your guy tries one, please write a review for those of us with this problem. Best wishes.

Posted by
362 posts

I'll let him know about that product. Thanks for the suggestion!

And I will update here if he tries something new or finally makes it to the ENT. Thanks again for all the help! :-)

Posted by
1179 posts

One person mentioned Ear Planes, which works for a friend of mine. These are like ear plugs with a baffle in them. The baffle slows down the change in pressure so the ear can adjust on its own timeline.

Posted by
69 posts

Ear planes! Follow directions exactly. Also anti-histamine , gum, lots of yawning. I had one flight when it felt like someone was stabbing my ears on landing. Never since.

Posted by
4991 posts

I take a half dose of Sudafed before descent. He could take the full (two pills) dose.