Ear Popping – Why does it happen?

Experiencing our ears pop is something that happens all the time in our daily lives. The most common times we experience this are when we’re on a plane or going through a tunnel on a train.

The ear popping that we experience on a plane or a train is due to air pressure. When the air pressure around you lowers, the tiny air pocket of air in your ear pushes against your eardrum as it is supposed to be the same pressure as the air outside your ear. The air pressure being the same helps you hear more clearly. There is a small tube in your ear, the Eustachian tube, which helps to equalise the pressure inside your ear. When the pressure inside and outside of your ear is equalised, this is when you feel the small “pop” you’re familiar with.

When you’re on a plane, the change in air pressure can be felt quite strongly in your ears because it is a sudden change. The plane’s cabin is pressurised to help with your ear pressure, however, the sudden changes in altitude during take off and landing meaning that a more extreme change in air pressure than usual happens. This is what causes the familiar pop in your ear when we are flying.

It is a little different when you are travelling through a train and you go under a tunnel. There isn’t a change in altitude like on a plane, instead the tunnel causes all of the air in the tunnel to be squeezed to the front. This causes higher air pressure in the carriages which is what causes the pressure change feeling in your ears.

Sometimes, you will feel the change in air pressure in your ear but your ears won’t pop which can end up causing a little pain. A common way to help your ears pop is to pinch your nose closed and close your mouth then swallow. Drinking water may make this easier. You do need to ensure that you equalise the air pressure in your ear so that you are able to hear properly and aren’t in any pain.

There are a few other times where your ears may pop and it isn’t caused by changes in air pressure. The Eustachian tube can become blocked or inflamed when you have a cold or sinus infection and this can cause your ears to pop when you are yawning or chewing. More than likely, this will clear up when you get better.

If you do need any further advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we would be more than happy to help.

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