What Causes Ear Pain On Aeroplanes And How Can I Prevent Jetlag?

 What Causes Ear Pain On Aeroplanes And How Can I Prevent Jetlag?

What Causes Ear Pain On Aeroplanes And How Can I Prevent Jetlag?

It is a frequent complaint of aeroplane passengers that their ears hurt on take off and landing.  Why does this happen?  It may be a sign of Eustachian tube dysfunction.  The Eustachian tube is a narrow short channel which extends from the middle ear space to the nasal cavity, allowing air to pass between the two.  This means that when the outside air pressure goes up or down, for instance, when you are in an aeroplane or scuba diving.

Pressure from outside the lumen of the tube can also cause problems.  This is the case with enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

The slightest amount of inflammation or mucus in the tube can easily lead to the passage of air being blocked.  This means that a steep pressure gradient can build up across the eardrum, leading to rupture in extreme cases.  This is severely painful and leaves a hole in the tympanic membrane which may take weeks to heal.

A good pair of ear plugs can help to dampen the change in pressure and protect the drum from bursting.  ZenPlugs Moulded Ear Plugs are ideal for this purpose.  It is also worth avoiding scuba diving or flying with a cold, if this possible.

Jet lag is a syndrome of tiredness, headaches, disorientation, tummy upset and a feeling of being generally unwell. It is caused by crossing time zones on long haul flights.  Other factors which contribute include uncomfortable seats, flying at night and altered diet. Dehydration and noise also contribute. 

Aircraft cabins are very noisy places. Thankfully the noise of the engines is blocked out by microphones on the wings. They play the sound back in the cabin through speakers with a tiny time delay which cancels out the sound. This can reduce fatigue and prevent jet lag but you're still left with the howl of the air con and the man in the seat behind you laughing at ‘The Simpsons'. The clinking of bottles of whisky going past on the duty-free trolley can be unbearable at 4am.

According to a paper from the Flight Safety Foundation by Stanley R. Mohler ‘High noise levels on ramps and in flight can contribute to fatigue'.  This paper was written with reference to pilots on long flights but will also apply to passengers who are exposed to similar conditions. It is well documented and widely accepted that exposure to noise contributes to the problem and can be eased by wearing flying earplugs.  Blocking sound from your ears with a decent set of flying ear plugs helps prevent jet lag and reduces fatigue by helping you get some rest.

The white noise present in the cabins of aeroplanes can have an agitating effect on long haul flights. Blocking it from your ears can reduce fatigue and help you rest.  Flying earplugs must be comfortable and effective. If you fly long haul it is worth considering using ZenPlugs Moulded Ear Plugs to prevent jet lag as these are more comfortable and last longer. 

Choose colourful flying earplugs so they are easier to find when you inevitably drop them on the floor and they roll under the seat in front of you.  If they are joined by a cord they are less likely to be lost. Antibacterial earplugs may prevent ear infections caused by wearing earplugs for prolonged periods.  Otits externa is common in frequent ear plug users. Irritation and inflammation can be caused by dirty fingers and mucky ear plugs being left in the ears for a long time.  The plugs prevent the ear canals from ventilating properly, helping bacteria to grow.  Antibacterial ear plugs will help prevent this.

Unfortunately earplugs won't stop the man next to you elbowing you and knocking your lager down your jeans.

Dr Toby Bateson for ZenPlugs Ltd