Use The Valsalva Manoeuvre To Prevent Ear Pain When Flying

Ear-popping pain is one of the hazards of flying. For some, especially kids or those with colds, it can be quite severe. Mun Fitness Blog suggests several tips for preventing this condition, including the "Valsalva manoeuvre."

In the Valsalva manoeuvre, you close your mouth and pinch your nose shut and exhale forcibly through your nostrils. You'll hear a "popping" sound and the pressure should be equalised in your ears. (Unequal pressure in your ears when the plane takes off or lands is the main cause of plane ear.)

Besides several other suggestions for preventing ear pain when flying, Mun Fitness Blog also offers a great tip for preventing ear pain that happens when driving:

Ear pain also happens while sitting in a car which come down from a steep mountain quickly with the window rolled up. Leave a crack in the window when descending or climbing a steep mountain will help.

I've always just chewed gum when flying. What's your strategy?

How to prevent pain in the ear when you are in the plane? [Mun Fitness Blog]


    I'm an audiologist. The Valsalva manoeuvre should not be recommended to people on a general basis as it can actually cause a loss in hearing, as you can see even in the Wikipedia entry for it:

    "It should be noted this maneuver, when used as a tool to equalize middle ear pressure, carries with it the risk of auditory damage from over pressurization of the middle ear.[4][6][7][8] It is safer, if time permits, to attempt to open the Eustachian tubes by swallowing a few times, or yawning. The effectiveness of the "yawning" method can be improved with practice; some people are able to achieve release or opening by moving their jaw forward or forward and down, rather than straight down as in a classical yawn.[4] Opening can often be clearly heard by the practitioner, thus providing feedback that the maneuver was successful."

    Angus, maybe you should pass this on to the US site too. You're right, chewing gum is a safer bet.

      I've never understood the need to have a special manoeuvre to open the "Eustachian tubes" (as I've just discovered they're called)... I just, you know, open them. In the same way that I would move any other muscle in my body... e.g. open my mouth, move my arm, wiggle my toes.

      Is this not normal?

        The default position of the Eustachian tubes are closed and most adults can open them at will, without valsalva.
        However, under certain middle ear conditions, the etubes are locked closed, with negative pressure in the middle ear. This is when valsalva is sometimes used to force the etube open.

        For kids, their skull and muscles are not fully developed. Hence their etube is "flatter" in relation to the ground plane (10deg incline) and they also have a much harder time opening their etube.

    My understanding is you have two types of pressure. Inside ear pressure is too low, this occurs on descent and outside pressure is lower on ascent causing the ear drum to be taut outwards. On ascent you are waiting for air to escape to equalise, so yawning, gum, swallowing are what you use (blowing air into the tube would be increasing problem). Descent i use the method of holding nose but blowing into my cheeks and swallowin, not throuh nose. It's gentler and safer.

    Not only that, but the above method is painful anyway. Especially when it happens blowing your nose with a cold.

    Also, chewing gum doesn't make you look crazy.

    Really? people need to be told this.

    I use some special ear plugs called "Ear Planes" and they work. I get tear welling pain in my ears otherwise.

    I used to get the most incredible pain when landing. Now I take sinus tablets half an hour before landing and it has greatly reduced the pain so that it is only an irritation.

    I chew gum while on the plane, as long as you chew with your mouth open (i know, tasteless lol) like you're gasping air, it should work as well.

    Valsalva works for your sinuses too. I've found that doing this when experiencing sinus pain when landing equalises that pressure as well.

    Airwaves gum works a treat for me. The chewing and swallowing helps. But the menthol and eucalyptus helps to open the head also.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now