Had Airplane Ear for 5 days. Anything serious?
May 30, 2010 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I have had airplane ear for five days, and have tried everything. Any final suggestions?

I was in a descent on an airplane and my ears were painfully popping, especially my left. I put my finger in my ear to try to stop it but it didn't work. I tried valsalva meneuver and nose blowing technique. Since the plane the left one stayed stopped up in a sense like having water in your ear while swimming. I have tried hot water, vinegar, peroxide, decongestants, etc.

In order to rule out infection I started dosing myself with amoxicillin for the last two days. No difference.

So it doesn't seem to be perforated, an infection, or generally anything i can detect in my ear. I am thinking I am going to see a doctor, but I'm wondering what else it could be other than wax stuck on the drum? Anything significantly dangerous or permanent?
posted by torpark to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
IANAD. But don't play around with antibiotics unless you know exactly what you're doing; incomplete courses of antibiotics are the best way to create resistant strains of bacteria not only in yourself, but also in the public at large.

Wax on the drum is exterior to the systems affected by changes in air pressure and shouldn't have any impact on a sensation of aural fullness. It's doubtful that it would suddenly make itself known just like that anyway. Your best bet is to see an ENT doctor. If you're doing OTC decongestants, they might not have the kick necessary to clear you up, and the ENT might be able to give you something better.
posted by holterbarbour at 7:36 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you should go to the doctor. If my allergies are bad and I fly, or get water in my ear, I have had to go to the doctor and have them flush it.

Once, it was a piece of wax that got stuck.
posted by hazyspring at 7:43 PM on May 30, 2010

This happens to me pretty much every time I fly. I am now prescribed steroid nasal spray to use to clear it up. OTC stuff doesn't do it. Also, it's only been an ear infection once out of the 15 or so times I've had this, so I wouldn't go self-dosing antibiotics.
posted by ishotjr at 7:47 PM on May 30, 2010

*the point of my post being that you should go to the doctor.
posted by ishotjr at 7:48 PM on May 30, 2010

Don't worry, I know what I'm doing on the antibiotics, it is a field of my studies. Good idea on the steroidal spray, I will try that immediately. I do recall, I think I used to have tubes in my ears for some reason as a child. I apparently had ear pain then too but I doubt the fullness.
posted by torpark at 7:58 PM on May 30, 2010

If antibiotics are part of your field you will know that their secretion into the middle ear is minimal. Study after study say they are ineffective for mild otitis media. For otitis media with infiltration they can be helpful, but that's unlikely in your case and, if it was so, you should see a doctor.
A powerful antiinflammatory makes more sense, what ishotjr said.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:50 PM on May 30, 2010

Get thee to a doctor. Once I flew when I had a cold, and upon landing, my left ear was excruciatingly painful. Actually, I went deaf in that ear afterward for about a full day. Fast forward a couple of years and I went to see the ear doctor for something unrelated, and I learn that I have a small but somewhat significant hearing loss in my left ear. I told the doctor about my plane incident and he emphatically stated that it was probably the reason for my hearing loss. I also have mild tinnitus that I pray doesn't get worse, but tinnitus usually does. He said if I had gone to see a doctor, I might've prevented the damage. YMMV.
posted by zardoz at 9:12 PM on May 30, 2010

A friend's "airplane ear" ended up be neurological. N'thing "see a doctor."
posted by dws at 9:13 PM on May 30, 2010

I got airplane ear the last time I flew, and I too tried the noseblowing thing - where you hold your nose shut with one hand, close your mouth, and try to force air through.

It didn't work, until I finally read something that said that you also have to plug the "good" ear with your finger. SWEET RELIEF.
posted by HopperFan at 9:16 PM on May 30, 2010

I have tried hot water, vinegar, peroxide, decongestants, etc.

I hate to attempt to fix this with a magic bullet, but have you tried Sudafed? Pseudoephedrine works wonders; divers swear by it. If that doesn't work, see a doctor.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:17 PM on May 30, 2010

I had this happen about a year ago. After multiple visits to the local GP (two weeks of antibiotics and steroid inhaler, no change) , I happened to visit a local chiro clinic. I went into it very skeptical, "What on earth is a chiro going to do for me?!" After some discussion, the doc reached a finger into my mouth, where the Eustachian tubes empty into the back of the throat. She wedged her fingertips in snugly and pulled out quickly, causing a slight vacuum. The second time she pulled, my ears opened up and regained 80% of usability. Over the next day, the remaining 20% cleared up.
posted by browse at 9:18 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

My father-a fighter pilot back in the day, used to rapid ascents and descents- says to open your mouth as wide as you can by only moving the back of your jaw down, and then yawning with your mouth closed.

Worked for him every time. YMMV.

I like the chiropractor idea, too.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:25 PM on May 30, 2010


I was scuba diving a couple years ago and the pressure plugged up my ears, which stopped me from any further diving on my trip. I couldn't get rid of the ear problem until a couple days later another man who was diving there, a chiropractor, asked if he could try something. He essentially grabbed each ear gently, twisted them a bit, and explained that he would quickly twist them the other way. Something about opening up the tubes or something. Anyway, it worked like a charm almost instantly.
posted by fso at 4:44 AM on May 31, 2010

Another thing: once I had an earache and it was suggested to me to get some garlic oil. I found some in a health food store, dropped in a few drops, and the problem went away instantly. I reapplied maybe once or twice more, but I was amazed how well that worked.
posted by zardoz at 5:36 AM on May 31, 2010

My ears became clogged about nine days ago when I landed back in Germany, and I went to the ear doctor four days later. He gave me steroid inhaler to use a half hour after Afrin, and I'm just a bit better in one ear. Meanwhile, I started Allegra (for allergies - haven't taken this since last fall) about three days ago and am wondering what to do. I thought it would all be cleared up by now.
posted by dorle2you at 5:37 AM on May 31, 2010

I swear by Pseudoephedrine and laying on a heating bad on the painful ear for about 1/2 hour. That has worked quite effectively for clearing up pressure-related ear pain.

Still, as with chronic lifelong ear issues and the variety of answers, I think it's easy to see there's no one easy answer for your issue. For instance, I have the landing problem due to have tiny Eustachian tubes (which also seems to prevent proper draining), but many of the tricks prescribed above don't work for me because my ear is literally clogged up 24/7 and my eardrum's is constantly perforated. That means I can't do certain things like use swimmer's ear drops, lest I want alcohol going in to my inner ear. Little things like that I wouldn't know if I didn't have a good ENT doctor.

Also, with a life of ear infections, I can attest to 2 days of amoxicillin not always clearing up ear infections. It often time took longer, especially if I let the infection linger. And if you really did have an ear infection and stopped taking the antibiotics, you've possibly made things worse.
posted by jmd82 at 6:24 AM on May 31, 2010

You might also try Mucinex D (not DM; that's for a cough). That's what the doctor told me when I had bad pressure issues.
posted by Madamina at 7:04 PM on May 31, 2010

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