How to Unpop Your Ears When You're On a Plane

By Jenny Green; Updated June 08, 2017

Tips to make your flight as comfortable as possible

How to Unpop Your Ears When You're On a Plane

That slightly uncomfortable moment before your ears pop comes with the territory in air travel, but for some, the moment lasts a little too long. Rest assured – you can speed up the time it takes before you can hear properly again by equalizing the air pressure inside and outside your ears yourself. How do you do that? By encouraging the tubes that lead from your mouth to your ears to open.

How do you get your ears to pop?

When you’re flying at high altitude, the cabin air is at a lower pressure than at ground level. The problem is that the air pressure inside your ears is the same as when you boarded the plane. Your eardrums can’t function properly, sounds become muffled and your ears feel weird. To get your ears to pop, you have to let the cabin air into your ears through your mouth. Any kind of moving or stretching of your mouth is going to help.

  • Chew gum
  • Yawn
  • Swallow
  • Suck on hard candy
  • Hold your nose, close your mouth and blow gently
  • Turn your head to each side and repeat the above steps
  • Don’t give up. Keep trying each solution, and if all else fails, and your plane has seat-back entertainment, watch a really boring movie. That should make you yawn, long and loud!

What if you have a cold, and you’re flying?

Being sick is a real bummer when flying. The pressure inside your ears builds up, and you can feel pretty uncomfortable. If you have a cold and you’re booked to fly somewhere, get yourself some antihistamines to reduce inflammation, and decongestants, which cut down on mucus. Take both before you fly to give them time to do their work. If you decide to try to unblock your ears by holding your nose, closing your mouth and blowing, blow very gently. You don’t want to force more mucus toward your ears.

Helping kids unpop their ears

Everything is smaller in kids, including the tubes that go from their mouths to their ears, which spells trouble when it comes to flying.

  • Breast- or bottle-feed your baby during take-off and landing. Encourage them to suck and swallow, as babies derive a lot of comfort as they drink formula or their mother’s milk. If your baby isn’t hungry, offer a pacifier to suck instead.
  • Give your child plenty to drink. Cabin air is dry and encourages mucus. Drinking helps keep children’s inner ear tubes unblocked, and it means they’re swallowing often.
  • Yawn widely in front of your child. Yawning is contagious, and your little one may follow suit.
  • Give older children hard candy or gum to suck and chew. Older kids can grow to love flying!
  • Pack pain relief medication for kids in case it takes a while for their ears to pop.

About the Author

A graduate of Leeds University, Jenny Green completed Master of Arts in English literature in 1998 and has been writing about travel, gardening, science and pets since 2007. Green's work appears in Diva, Whole Life Times, Listverse, Earthtimes, Lamplight, Stupefying Stories and other websites and magazines.