March 27, 2004 4:10 PM   Subscribe

What's a surefire way to pop one's ear following a flight on an airplane (or anytime else)?

I flew home yesterday with a bad cold. It's been nearly 24 hours and I still haven't popped my left ear. Understandable, since I'm sick, but maddening. I feel the fluid and I can't hear well.

On the plane and since I tried everything I know: chewing, swallowing, yawning, moving my jaw around, holding my nose and blowing hard, and opening and closing the windows in the car to change the air pressure. I even took an elevator to the 29th floor and back, but no luck.

What else can I do, besides wait it out?
posted by werty to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
have you been blowing your nose for real? (without holding it closed?) or, you could buy ear drops too--they'll do it.
posted by amberglow at 4:32 PM on March 27, 2004

I have fucked up ears from many childhood ear infections, so I have to pop my ears every coupld of hours. The way I do it is to kind of yawn. I used to have to hold my nose shut and sort of blow until they popped, but doing it so often is very easy for me now.

Try to yawn while pinching your nose shut and gently force the pressure into your ears.
posted by interrobang at 4:35 PM on March 27, 2004

I should add that if it feels like there's fluid in there, you might want to get it checked out.
posted by interrobang at 5:07 PM on March 27, 2004

You aren't in pain, right? If you are, then you may have an ear infection and should get that checked out. No pain? Try putting a heating pad on a pillow and then laying your head, affected ear down, on it. The heat can work wonders - I used to get swimmer's ear all the time, and the heating pad cured it every time. Swimmer's ear is a build-up of fluid in the inner ear, which sounds like what you have. After laying my head on the heating pad for a half-hour or so, I would hear a faint pop, and then pool water would drain out - it felt sooooo good.

Also - try googling "blow dryer" ear fluid - some people use blow dryers to ease ear aches and dry up fluid - might be worth looking into.
posted by iconomy at 5:36 PM on March 27, 2004

When growing up my next door neighbor's dad was a pilot for one of the big airlines (can't recall which one). Anyhow he told us, "Hold your nose tight and keep your mouth closed and blow really hard". Hell, it works. Not advised for those with ear troubles, but god knows it could be bad for my ears. Usually I just chew gum and that don't work I try the big cheek method.
posted by otisfodder at 5:46 PM on March 27, 2004

Otisfodder's neighbor's technique works also for divers having problems clearing their ears on descent, a much nastier condition to overcome.
The water pressure tends at some point to collapse the eustachian tube, which runs from the back of the throat up to the inner ear.
It does however, have the potential to blast bacteria from teh throat up to the ear so use the technique sparingly.
posted by BentPenguin at 5:50 PM on March 27, 2004

I had to fly a lot as a child and yawning has always been my trick. It can be more difficult if you're congested, but trying to get a good 30-second multiple yawn going and you'll clear damn near any imbalance.

Scuba divers also report holding your nose/mouth shut and blowing (just exert some gentle pressure and build from there) works as well as simply opening your mouth as wide as possible, and stretching your jaw side to side.
posted by scarabic at 6:02 PM on March 27, 2004

BTW, some dumb trivia: The hold-your-nose-and-blow routine is formally known as the Valsalva maneuver.
posted by xil at 9:25 PM on March 27, 2004

Hot chicken soup to help clear the congestion at the bottom of your eustation tube. Tea might do it, but chicken soup is the best for this. Then try the ordinary methods described above.

If that doesn't work, you need a respirator--An airbag with a mask that fits over nose and mouth, and a friend. Take a mouth of water, place mask over nose. As you swallow, have the friend squeeze the bag (not too hard!). This is a rude and forceful way I learned from an Airforce medic.
posted by Goofyy at 9:30 PM on March 27, 2004

I just close my mouth and blow out hard through my nose. But I've got a lot of ability to control muscles in my head (I can wiggle my ears, eyebrows, and scalp independently ... yep, I'm a subtle circuis freak!) and I might be doing something that I don't know I'm doing.
posted by SpecialK at 10:51 PM on March 27, 2004

Anybody have air come out through their eyes when they do the Valsalva method? I have to close my eyes while I hold my nose, close my mouth and blow.
posted by ajpresto at 3:06 AM on March 28, 2004

My audiologist friend wants you all to know that the Valsalva method should not be used.

If you're sick, it's going to distribute the bacteria (as already mentioned).

If you're not sick, you're screwing up your natural pressure relieving reflexes, and will have to start relying on it. A yawn should be all you need to equalize pressure.
posted by taumeson at 9:09 AM on March 28, 2004

I too have bad ears from infections and tubes, and I find the Valsalva method useful for testing if me eardrum is perferated which can happen from simply sneezing. If its hard to blow ear, my eardrum is good but anything means its shot (which is about 50% of the time).
posted by jmd82 at 9:16 AM on March 28, 2004

Holding my ear over a cup of very hot water has worked for me in the past. It can sometimes take up to an hour to work, but it's never failed me.
posted by Zosia Blue at 1:04 PM on March 28, 2004

You might want to try clearing your sinuses first, and then either your ears should pop naturally or you can do the Valsava. Take a very hot shower and when your nose is well steamed up, blow it for all it's worth, one nostril at a time. Then bend over and put your index fingers on either side of your nose, in between your nose bone and your cheekbones. Feel around, you should find an indentation. Press hard, massage in very small circles, and it should open up your sinuses. Someone taught me that trick when I was trying (and mostly failing miserably) to learn how to surf; when done right it's amazing how much fluid immediately runs out your nose.
posted by fuzz at 4:07 PM on March 28, 2004

Response by poster: If you're wondering, hot shower + hot shave + Sudafed + Valsava = my ear popped this morning. Only took two and a half days. Thanks, everyone.
posted by werty at 8:24 AM on March 29, 2004

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