Popping Your Ears, Here’s How You do it

Man making his ears pop on an airplane.

Have you ever been on a plane and you start to have issues with pressure in your ears? Where suddenly, your ears seem to be clogged? Your neighbor probably suggested chewing gum. And you probably don’t even recognize why this works sometimes. Here are a few tricks for making your ears pop when they feel clogged.

Your Ears And Pressure

Your ears, as it turns out, do a very good job at regulating pressure. Owing 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. Usually.

Irregularities in air pressure can cause issues in circumstances where your Eustachian tubes are having trouble adjusting. There are instances when you could be suffering from an uncomfortable and often painful condition called barotrauma which occurs when there is an accumulation of fluid behind the ears or when you’re ill. At higher altitudes, you feel a small amount of this exact situation.

You usually won’t even notice small pressure differences. But when those changes are sudden, or when your Eustachian tubes aren’t functioning quite right, you can experience fullness, pain, and even crackling inside of your ears.

What is The Source of That Crackling?

Hearing crackling in your ears is somewhat uncommon in an everyday situation, so you may be understandably curious about the cause. The sound itself is commonly compared to a “Rice Krispies” type of sound. In many instances, what you’re hearing is air getting around obstructions or obstacles in your eustachian tubes. The cause of those obstructions can range from congestion to Eustachian tube malfunction to unregulated changes in air pressure.

Equalizing Ear Pressure

Normally, any crackling is going to be caused by a pressure imbalance in your ears (especially if you’re on a plane). In that scenario, you can try the following technique to neutralize ear pressure:

  • Try Swallowing: Pressure in the eustachian tubes will be neutralized when the muscles that are used to swallow are triggered. This, incidentally, is also the reason why you’re told to chew gum on an airplane; the chewing causes you to swallow, and swallowing is what forces the ears to equalize.
  • Toynbee Maneuver: This is actually just a fancy way to swallow. Pinch your nose (so that your nostrils are closed), shut your mouth, and swallow. Sometimes this is a bit simpler with a mouthful of water (because it makes you keep your mouth shut).
  • Valsalva Maneuver: Try this if you’re still having trouble: pinch your nose close your mouth, but rather than swallowing, try blowing out (don’t let any air get out if you can help it). Theoretically, the pressure should be neutralized when the air you try to blow out passes over your eustachian tubes.
  • Frenzel Maneuver: Okay, try this maneuver. With your mouth shut and your nose pinched, try making “k” noises with your tongue. Clicking may also help.
  • Yawning: For the same reason that swallowing can be effective, try yawning. (If you’re having trouble getting sleepy, just think of someone else yawning and you’ll most likely start to yawn yourself.)

Devices And Medications

There are devices and medications that are designed to deal with ear pressure if none of these maneuvers work. The cause of your barotrauma and it’s intensity will establish if these medications or techniques are right for you.

At times that might mean special earplugs. In other instances, that might mean a nasal decongestant. Your situation will dictate your remedy.

What’s The Trick?

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

But you should schedule an appointment for a consultation if you can’t shake that feeling of obstruction in your ear. Because this can also be a symptom 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.