Ear barotrauma usually happens when a person is sick or changing altitude, such as when they are flying on an airplane, driving up a mountain, or descending at the beginning of a scuba dive.
What is this sensation and how can a person make their ears pop?
How to pop your ears
Popping the ears helps to open the eustachian tubes and regulate the pressure in the middle ear.
There are many strategies people can use to help pop their ears safely and effectively:
Yawning helps to open the eustachian tubes. Try forcing a yawn several times until the ears pop open.
Swallowing helps to activate the muscles that open the eustachian tube. Sipping water or sucking on hard candy can help to increase the need to swallow.
If yawning and swallowing do not work, take a deep breath and pinch the nose shut. Keeping the mouth closed, try to blow air through the nose gently.
It is best to be cautious when performing this maneuver because there is a small risk of rupturing the eardrum.
To do the Toynbee maneuver, pinch the nose closed and close the mouth, then try swallowing. Having a mouthful of water may make it a little easier.
To perform this maneuver, pinch the nose closed and use the tongue to make a clicking or “K” sound.
Chewing gum helps increase swallowing because it stimulates saliva production. Also, the chewing motion can also help to open the eustachian tubes.
Try special devices
There are devices available that can help to clear the ears. These are especially useful for people who are not able to use or perform the above maneuvers safely or effectively.
There are three types of devices:
- Special earplugs: These special earplugs claim to help to regulate the flow of air from the environment into the ear. It is not clear whether they are truly effective, but they are inexpensive and risk-free.
- Otovent: The Otovent and similar devices mimic the motions used in the Valsalva maneuver. To use it, insert the nozzle into one nostril. At the other end is a deflated balloon. Pinch the open nostril closed and blow up the balloon using the nozzle in the first nostril. This device can be especially helpful in children or other people who are not able to use the Valsalva correctly.
- EarPopper: The EarPopper is a prescription device that can help to open the eustachian tubes. Simply insert the device into one nostril, close the other, and push a button. The device releases small puffs of air through the nose and into the eustachian tubes.