Popping Your Ears, Here’s How You do it

Man making his ears pop on an airplane.

Ever have troubles with your ears on a plane? Where your ears suddenly feel blocked? Someone you know probably recommended chewing gum. And while that sometimes works, you probably don’t recognize why. Here are a few tricks for making your ears pop when they feel plugged.

Pressure And Your Ears

Your ears, as it so happens, do a very good job at regulating pressure. Thanks to a beneficial little piece of physiology called Eustachian tubes, the pressure of the outside world is able to be regulated, adjusted, and equalized inside of your ears. Normally.

Inequalities in the pressure of the air can cause issues in circumstances where your Eustachian tubes are not adjusting properly. There are occasions when you might be suffering from an uncomfortable and sometimes painful affliction known as barotrauma which happens when there is a buildup of fluid behind the ears or when you’re ill. This is the same situation you experience in small amounts when flying or driving around particularly tall mountains.

Most of the time, you won’t detect differences in pressure. But you can experience pressure, pain, and crackling if your Eustachian tubes aren’t functioning efficiently or if the pressure changes are sudden.

What is The Cause of That Crackling?

You may become curious what’s causing that crackling because it’s not prevalent in day to day circumstances. The sound itself is frequently compared to a “Rice Krispies” style noise. In many instances, what you’re hearing is air getting around blockages or obstacles in your eustachian tubes. Unregulated changes in air pressure, failure of the eustachian tubes, or even congestion can all be the cause of those obstructions.

How to Equalize The Pressure in Your Ears

Most commonly, any crackling will be caused by a pressure imbalance in your ears (particularly if you’re flying). In that scenario, you can try the following technique to equalize ear pressure:

  • Yawn: Try yawning, it works for the same reason that swallowing does. (if you can’t yawn whenever you want, try imagining someone else yawning, that will normally work.)
  • Valsalva Maneuver: If you’re still having trouble, try this: after you pinch your nose and shut your mouth, try blowing out without allowing any air get out. In theory, the air you try to blow out should pass through your eustachian tubes and neutralize the pressure.
  • Toynbee Maneuver: This is actually just a fancy way to swallow. With your mouth closed, pinch your nose and swallow. Sometimes this is somewhat simpler with water in your mouth (because it makes you keep your mouth shut).
  • Frenzel Maneuver: If nothing else works, try this. Pinch your nose, close your mouth, and make “k” sounds with your tongue. You can also try clicking to see if that works.
  • Swallow: Pressure in the eustachian tubes will be equalized when the muscles that are used to swallow are triggered. This, by the way, is also why you’re told to chew gum when flying; the swallowing is what equalizes the ear and chewing makes you swallow.

Medications And Devices

If self-administering these maneuvers doesn’t do the trick, there are devices and medications that are specially produced to help you manage the ear pressure. The cause of your barotrauma and it’s severeness will determine if these techniques or medications are appropriate for you.

On occasion that could mean special earplugs. Nasal decongestants will be appropriate in other cases. It all depends on your scenario.

What’s The Trick?

The real key is finding out what works for you, and your eustachian tubes.

But you should make an appointment for a consultation if you can’t get rid of that feeling of blockage in your ear. Because this can also be a sign of loss of hearing.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.