Let’s start with the one most of us have experienced, when we’re on a plane or train. When it comes to your ears popping due to these environments, it’s all to do with air pressure. Within your ear, there is a tiny air pocket which is at the same pressure as the air outside your ear and helps you hear more clearly. When the air pressure changes around you, you can feel the pocket of air pushing against your eardrum. When this happens, your ear has a small tube which helps to equalise the pressure inside your ear. The tube levels out the pressure from the inside and outside of your ear. When the pressure is equal, you’ll often hear a small pop.
When there is an altitude change, such as in an airplane, the air pressure can be felt significantly in your ears. Although an aircraft cabin will be pressurised, the taking off and landing of planes can make the pressure change happen more quickly due to the sudden altitude change – causing the pop in the ears.
When you’re on a train going through a tunnel, the air pressure can also be felt in your ears. Unlike the altitude of a plane making your ears pop, a train going through a tunnel causes all of the air in the tunnel to be squeezed in front of the train. This, in turn, causes high pressure within the carriages, causing you to feel the pressure change in your ears.
Sometimes, you will feel the change in air pressure, but your ears will not pop. A common way to help your ears along is to pinch the nose closed and close the mouth, then try swallowing. Having a mouthful of water may make it a little easier.
There are other instances where your ears may pop, aside from the already mentioned air pressure changes. In some cases, there can be a problem with the Eustachian tube (the small tube that equalises air pressure) within the middle/inner part of the ear. It can often be that the Eustachian tube can become blocked or inflamed. Some causes of the blockage can be the common cold, allergies or sinus infections. It can be that when you yawn or are chewing, the ears will pop, or it can be that they clear on their own once the infection has gone.
It can be worthwhile to have your hearing checked if you feel you have a blockage in your ear. If you’re concerned about your hearing, you can book an appointment or find your local Hearing Centre online today.
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