Whenever I fly I get this horrible pain in my ears, right as we're descending, about 15 minutes before we land. It's excruciating and sometimes I can't hear well a few hours after the flight. What causes this and is there any way to prevent it? I am traveling soon for my Summer vacation and am not looking forward to flying.
— Pain in the Ear
Great that you're taking a vacation. They are great for stress relief. It sounds like you suffer the condition aptly named airplane ear. More scientifically it's known as barotrauma or barotitis media, but whatever the name, the pain can be really intense and can cause ringing or bleeding in your ear, dizziness, or temporary hearing loss.
To hear what causes it and how to ease your pain read more.
This condition is pretty common and is caused by rapid changes in altitude or air pressure, which causes an unequal pressure between your middle ear and the air outside your ear. This makes your eardrum bulge outward or retract inward, which hurts, and can even cause a ruptured eardrum. You've probably also experienced it when swimming in deep water or driving through the mountains.
Swallowing or yawning should help ease your discomfort because the Eustachian tube, which connects your middle ear to the back of your nose, opens and allows air to flow into or out of your middle ear, equalizing the pressure. If you're congested though because of a cold or allergies, this tube can be blocked, causing pain, muffled sound, and temporary hearing loss.
To prevent this from happening on future flights, try taking an over-the-counter decongestant such as Sudafed about 30 to 60 minutes before your flight. This will help to dry up mucus from your nose and sinuses. While you're flying, chew gum or suck on a cough drop. This will encourage frequent swallowing, which helps to activate the muscles that open your Eustachian tubes. Also, don't sleep when the plane is descending, so you can be sure you're swallowing often. I hope this helps and happy travels.