Popping Your Ears, Here’s How You do it

Man making his ears pop on an airplane.

Ever have difficulties with your ears on an airplane? Where your ears suddenly feel blocked? Perhaps somebody you know suggested you try chewing gum. And while that works sometimes, you probably don’t know why. If your ears feel plugged, here are a few tips to make your ears pop.

Your Ears And Pressure

Turns out, your ears are pretty good at regulating air pressure. Owing to a useful little piece of physiology called Eustachian tubes, the pressure inside of your ears is able to regulate, adjust, and equalize to the pressure in their environment. Usually.

Inequalities in air pressure can cause issues in situations where your Eustachian tubes are not adjusting properly. There are instances when you could be suffering from an unpleasant and often painful condition called barotrauma which occurs when there is an accumulation of fluid at the back of the ears or when you’re ill. At higher altitudes, you experience a small amount of this exact situation.

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 correctly or if the pressure differences are sudden.

What is The Source of That Crackling?

You may become curious where that crackling is coming from since it’s not typical in everyday situations. The sound is frequently compared to a “Rice Krispies” type of noise. Usually, air going around blockages of the eustachian tubes is the cause of this crackling. The cause of those obstructions can range from congestion to Eustachian tube malfunction to unregulated changes in air pressure.

How to Equalize The Pressure in Your Ears

Most commonly, any crackling is going to be caused by a pressure difference in your ears (particularly if you’re flying). And if that takes place, there are a number of ways to bring your inner ear and outer ear back into air-pressure-harmony:

  • Toynbee Maneuver: This is actually just swallowing in a fancy way. Pinch your nose (so that your nostrils are closed), shut your mouth, and swallow. If you take water in your mouth (which will help you keep your mouth closed) it may help.
  • Yawn: Try yawning, it works for the same reason that swallowing does. (If you’re having trouble getting sleepy, just imagine somebody else yawning and you’ll most likely start to yawn yourself.)
  • Frenzel Maneuver: If nothing else works, try this. With your mouth closed and your nose pinched, try making “k” sounds with your tongue. Clicking may also help.
  • Swallow: The muscles that trigger when swallowing will force your eustachian tubes to open, neutralizing the pressure. This, by the way, is also the reason why you’re told to chew gum when flying; the chewing causes you to swallow, and swallowing is what causes the ears to equalize.
  • Valsalva Maneuver: Try this if you’re still having problems: after pinching your nose and shutting your mouth, try blowing out without letting any air escape. Theoretically, the air you try to blow out should pass through your eustachian tubes and equalize the pressure.

Devices And Medications

If using these maneuvers doesn’t do the trick, there are devices and medications that are specifically made to help you handle the pressure in your ears. The cause of your barotrauma and it’s intensity will determine if these medications or techniques are appropriate for you.

Special earplugs will do the job in some situations. In other instances, that may mean a nasal decongestant. Your situation will dictate your response.

What’s The Trick?

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

If, however, you’re finding that that sensation of having a blocked ear doesn’t go away, you should come and see us. Because hearing loss can begin this way.

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.