Flying and ear unclogging

Alternative names
High altitudes and ear unclogging; Ear unclogging from high altitudes


How do you unclog blocked ears when descending from high altitudes?

Yawning and swallowing usually work fairly well. Chewing gum the entire time you are changing altitudes helps by causing you to swallow frequently and can prevent you from getting blocked ears in the first place.

People who consistently experience this problem when flying may consider taking a decongestant about an hour before the flight leaves.

If your ears are blocked, try inhaling, then gently exhaling while holding the nostrils closed and the mouth shut. If this is done too forcefully, it can cause ear infections by forcing bacteria into the ear canals. A perforation (hole) in your eardrum can result if you blow too hard. See barotrauma.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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