Ear barotrauma is a condition wherein the ear becomes stuffy and sometimes painful when there is a sudden change in air pressure. It causes pain and, in some cases, (permanent) auditory loss.
The air-filled space between the inner and outer ear is the middle ear. It contains three small bones named malleus, incus, and stapes that help produce sound. It also contains an opening for the ear tube that connects to the area behind the nose. The pressure is maintained of the flowing air by the eustachian tubes in the middle ear. The airplane ear is also called ear barotrauma, otitis media, and otitis media. Pain and pinching occur when the eustachian tube does not work and there is a pressure differential across the eardrum.
Divers call it “ear diaphragm”. As a diver dives deeper and deeper, the pressure in the middle ear (the area behind the eardrum) is “contracted ” by the increased amount of force and pressure of the water externally.
The symptoms in which you should visit a doctor preferably an ENT specialist are listed below:
- Mild ear discomfort or Pain
- Ear Congestion
- Excessive Vertigo
- Blood loss from ear
- Problem in hearing
The Eustachian tube plays a role in balancing against changes in external pressure. When there’s a blockage in the eustachian tube, the pressure difference created between the inside and outside of the middle ear causes barotrauma in the ear.
Elevation changes during aircraft take-off and landing can also cause ear barotrauma. The rapid ascent and descent of the aircraft combined with excessive pressure buildup in the cabin create a pressure imbalance between the middle and outer ear.
A similar effect can be caused by altitude changes that occur while driving uphill or downhill at high speed.
It is also common to experience ear barotrauma while diving scuba divers as changes in water pressure affect the auditory cavity of the ear. During the dive, it is very important to descend as slowly as possible to avoid ear damage from sudden pressure changes.
PEOPLE WHO ARE MOST EXPOSED TO HAVING THE DISEASE
People that engage them in activities that involve large amounts of pressure imbalances are posed to this disease of Ear Barotrauma.
- Pilots, Cabin crew or even the passengers travelling via plane since during take-off and landing the pressure changes a lot.
- Scuba divers, if they do not follow the decorum of diving, might get ear barotrauma since a lot of pressure imbalance is caused while diving in the water.
- People in the military are posed to a greater risk of ear barotrauma since during explosion, a large amount of pressure imbalance is created.
WHEN TO VISIT A DOCTOR
If you are facing the same symptoms from a very long time such as muffled hearing, hearing issues, vertigo etc, you should immediately rush to a doctor.
WHICH DOCTOR YOU SHOULD VISIT?
You should most preferably visit an ENT specialist, in case you face ear barotrauma. An ENT specialist or otolaryngologist is a doctor who specializes in problems and conditions of the ears, nose, and throat. Your doctor could tell you to see an ENT specialist because they are more experienced and knowledgeable about ear, nose, and throat problems than general practitioners.You can also find one of the finest ENT Specialist in Raipur.
PREVENTIVE MEASURES TO BE TAKEN
● Try earplugs with filters
These earplugs slowly even out the pressure on your eardrum as you ascend
and descend. These can be purchased at drug stores, airport gift shops, and
hearing clinics. However, you should yawn and swallow to relieve the
● Do not sleep during take-off and landing
Staying awake during ascents and descents allows you to use the necessary
self-care techniques if you feel pressure in your ears.
● Avoid flying when you have a cold, sinus infection, nasal congestion, or ear infection. If you’ve had ear surgery recently, talk to your doctor about when it’s safe to travel. In case you are having difficulty in going to visit the doctor one to one basis, you can consult the doctor online too.
● If you have any allergies, please take your medication approximately 1 hour before your flight.
● Yawning and swallowing on ascent and descent
These activate the muscles that open the Eustachian tube. Licking candy or
Chewing gum can make it easier to swallow.
● Pinching your nose and then closing your mouth, and then acting as if you were going to breathe out through your nose
Treatment largely depends on the symptoms you are having, your age, and your general health. It also depends on the severity of the medical condition. If you have had an ear barotrauma, you may not need treatment. Most injuries heal on their own over time and most people’s symptoms disappear. However, the eardrum may not heal properly if injured due to the explosion. Ear barotrauma may require medication. Nasal steroids and decongestants to relieve blockage around the opening of the ear canal. Antibiotics if infection occurs pain relievers.
Severe ear barotrauma if surgery required there is. Doctors may reconstruct the opening to the eardrum or inner ear. A small cut (incision) may be made in the eardrum. In rare cases, placement of a breathing tube in the eardrum may be recommended.
Your ENT specialist may recommend complete bed rest and prolonged head elevation.