Making Your Ears Pop, Here’s How You do it

Man making his ears pop on an airplane.

Have you ever been on an airplane and you start to have problems with pressure in your ears? Where suddenly, your ears seem to be blocked? Possibly someone you know suggested you try chewing gum. And you probably don’t even recognize why this is sometimes effective. If your ears feel clogged, here are some tricks to make your ears pop.

Pressure And Your Ears

Your ears, as it so happens, do an extremely good job at regulating pressure. Owing to a handy little piece of physiology called Eustachian tubes, the pressure of the outside world is able to be regulated, adjusted, and equalized inside of your ears. Usually.

Inequalities in the pressure of the air can cause problems in situations where your Eustachian tubes are not adjusting properly. There are occasions when you might be suffering from an uncomfortable and often painful condition known as barotrauma which occurs when there is an accumulation of fluid behind the ears or when you’re ill. This is the same thing you experience in small amounts when flying or driving around particularly tall mountains.

You generally won’t even detect gradual pressure changes. But when those changes are sudden, or when your Eustachian tubes aren’t functioning properly, you can feel fullness, pain, and even crackling in your ears.

What is The Cause of That Crackling?

Hearing crackling in your ears is somewhat unusual in an everyday situation, so you might be understandably curious about the cause. The sound is frequently compared to a “Rice Krispies” style sound. Usually, air moving around obstructions of the eustachian tubes is the cause of this crackling. The cause of those obstructions can range from congestion to Eustachian tube malfunction to unregulated changes in air pressure.

Equalizing Ear Pressure

Most commonly, any crackling will be caused by a pressure difference in your ears (especially if you’re flying). In that scenario, you can try the following technique to equalize ear pressure:

  • Valsalva Maneuver: If you’re still having trouble, try this: after pinching your nose and shutting your mouth, try blowing out without allowing any air get out. In theory, the air you try to blow out should pass through your eustachian tubes and equalize the pressure.
  • Yawning: Try yawning, it works for the same reason that swallowing does. (if you can’t yawn on command, try imagining someone else yawning, that will usually work.)
  • Try Swallowing: The muscles that trigger when swallowing will force your eustachian tubes to open, neutralizing the pressure. This also sheds light on the common advice to chew gum on a plane; the swallowing is what equalizes the ear and chewing makes you swallow.
  • Toynbee Maneuver: This is actually just swallowing in an elaborate way. With your mouth shut, pinch your nose and swallow. Often this is a bit easier with water in your mouth (because it makes you keep your mouth shut).
  • Frenzel Maneuver: If nothing else works, try this. Pinch your nose, close your mouth, and make “k” sounds with your tongue. You can also try clicking to see if that helps.

Medications And Devices

If self-administering these maneuvers doesn’t work, there are devices and medications that are specifically produced to help you handle the ear pressure. Whether these medicines and techniques are the right choice for you will depend on the underlying cause of your barotrauma, in addition to the extent of your symptoms.

Sometimes that might mean special earplugs. In other instances, that might mean a nasal decongestant. Your scenario will dictate your response.

What’s The Trick?

The real trick is figuring out what works for you, and your eustachian tubes.

But you should make an appointment to see us if you can’t shake that feeling of blockage in your ear. Because hearing loss can begin this way.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.