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Valsalva Maneuver – How To Avoid Ear Pain On Flight?


The Ear Pain at The Air Plane – I Cry When The Flight Descends…Valsalva Maneuver Helped It

Ear Pain

Image Credit: Pixabay

My fourth to and fro trip by Flight was to Singapore. I had boarded the flight and got my seat upgraded to Business Class. Had a co-passenger, a writer who had given me some company chatting for a while. He had asked me if I can join him for drinks and was really understanding when I had denied his invite wearing a smile.

Hmm, Namakku Indha Genmathula “Bovonto” Daanu Ezhidhi iruke [Sigh].

Soon after the conversation, I had moved on with my journey in a separate route by snoring and he had enjoyed his drinks until landing. Not sure about the dream I had but I was able to sense my tears rolling down to the chin passing my cheeks. It was a horrible pain in my ear that disturbed my sleep and also made me wake up crying. It was already 6 AM in the morning and the flight was above sea level.

I still remember the scenic beauty in a bird’s eye view. It was mind-blowing to see the blue sea with smaller islands, cruises, and yachts at the bay of Singapore. But, I was unable to enjoy the moment as my ear pain overrode the outside beauty. I took a strip of orbit chewing gum from my bag and started to chew. The ear pain was so intense which made me chew all the six tablets in one go.

Without much relief from chewing, I had landed safely at Changi Airport teasing my ears with fingers. Found Starbucks and grabbed a cup of coffee assuming anything hot I drink would help me get rid of ear pain. All my assumptions went wrong. The only thing that made me comfortable a bit was the quick nap I had sitting in the lounge.

I am sure there are a lot of people who suffer severe ear pain when they travel by flight. Especially when the flight starts to ascend/descend. This post has got all the information I had gathered via minor researches online and from my own experiences related to ear pain on the flight.

Reason For the Ear Pain At The Time Of Flight Takeoff/Landing:

The human ear is made up of three sections. We would have studied all these when we were in our higher secondary but not even faintly I remember now. The three sections of our ear are,

Outer Ear – The part in the Red-colored square box in the below picture.

Middle Ear – The part in the Blue-colored square box in the below picture.

Inner Ear – The part in the Orange-colored square box in the below picture.

ear pain

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The reason for the ear pain during the flight takeoff/landing is the pressure imbalance. Sudden changes in the air pressure around us are also one reason that leads to ear pain.

Purely My Views:

I also believe that the ear pain has to do with the way how the pilot operates the flight. Sudden altitude drops are one main reason for the pressure imbalances. I hate travelling by Jet/Indigo for this one reason and love Emirates for the same reason.

I also ensure that I do not sit on the seats beside the wings as I had felt ear pain most of the times I chose to sit there.

Information From Ask Doctor K Website

Here’s why it happens. Your ear has three parts: the outer ear (including the ear canal), the middle ear and the inner ear. The eardrum comes between the outer ear and the middle ear. The middle ear is connected to the back of your mouth by a thin canal called the Eustachian tube. Air is constantly moving through the Eustachian tube and into the middle ear. This balances the pressure in the middle ear with that in the inner ear.

Ear barotrauma can occur when one (or both) of two things happen: the Eustachian tube becomes blocked or partially blocked, and the air pressure around you changes suddenly.

Air pressure gets lower at higher altitudes. When a plane takes off, and when it descends for landing, the altitude changes rapidly. While the plane has systems to reduce the sudden changes that occur during takeoff and landing, some still occur.

When a plane’s air pressure changes suddenly, it can create a vacuum in the middle ear that pulls the eardrum inward. This can cause pain and muffle sounds.

Things That Might Help During Ear Pain:

  • Yawning + Swallowing
  • Chewing Gums
  • Forceful Blowing of Air with mouth and nose Closed
  • Suckling (For Infants and for kids of age < 3)
  • Sucking hard candies
  • Decongestant Spray / Pills
  • Ear Plugs
  • Valsalva Maneuver

Things That Would Make Ear Pain Worse:

Below mentioned are capable of making your travelling experience worse. Consult a doctor before travelling by flight for a better and smooth landing.

  1. Cold
  2. Sinus
  3. Allergies or Infections related to Ear and Mouth especially.

Things I had Tried So Far To Handle Ear Pain During Flight:

  • Ear Plugs meant for pressure maintenance (a bit expensive on Amazon). Earplugs for noise cancellation are different.
  • Eating Candies
  • Chewing Gums
  • Yawning + Swallowing
  • Drinking water sip by sip for continuous jaw movement
  • Valsalva Maneuver

Teasing ear with my finger (like how we do if water gets inside the ear) followed by swallowing

  • Valsalva Maneuver

I had tried all the above mentioned 7 methods. Though most of them clear my ear by creating a pop. I rely majorly on the 6th and 7th approaches. I had tested these methods myself (one approach at a time during my journeys). It took a few flight journeys to identify the ones that work for me.

Of all the ones mentioned above, I would strongly suggest Valsalva Maneuver when compared to the other approaches considering the success rate ratio.

Valsalva Maneuver Steps:

ear pain

Image Credit: doctoryg

  1. Close/pinch your nose.
  2. Blow air with the mouth closed. (Like how we blow air into a balloon).
  3. Wait for pop sound inside the ear.

I use to repeat the steps 1 to 3 twice with a gap of five minutes while landing as I find landings more challenging than take-offs.

Note: Valsalva Maneuver is not just for getting rid of ear pain during flight. It has got a lot of other benefits and is in use on various things related to our body.


Doing Valsalva Maneuver to get rid of ear pain should be done with caution.

Being hard while doing it may rupture the eardrum. Please do not try for a longer duration and be gentle while doing it.

I always request the flight attendants to let me know or wake me up an hour or 30 minutes before the landing. By that way, I ensure that I am well prepared for the landing especially during overseas travel.

Valsalva Maneuver works like a charm for me to win over my ear pain. But, I cannot say that it will work for everyone. In case, if it does not work for you, please do try some other approaches mentioned above or anything you find it.

Some of you might always have a great and smooth flight journey. But, that may not be the case for some of your own family members and to your friends. Do share the information about Valsalva Maneuver with people whom you know go through a harrowing time due to ear pain while travelling by flight

I wish you a Safe and Ear Pain-Free Journey. Good Luck.


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