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Ear won't "pop" after flying...

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I normally wouldn't seek medical advice on a jazz board, but what with all the travelers we have here....

I just returned from a trip on Saturday and my left ear never adjusted to the altitude change. I'm sure the situation was aggravated by a bad cold. It's driving me crazy- it doesn't hurt (just some pressure), but just won't pop (playing my instrument is difficult).

Any suggestions/remedies would be appreciated. I've tried yawning, chewing gum. Someone suggested using a nasal decongestant spray might help.

It doesn't seem necessary to go to the doctor yet, unless it doesn't get any better.

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I was going to suggest that this doesn't happen if you fly into a real airport rather than Tallahassee Regional :P but seeing as its an odd and aggravating situation, I'll just say "hope your ear pops soon, Paul!"

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Had the same problem flying back from DC in mid Feb.

The bad cold you had likely has your left Eustachian tube blocked. You probably have fluid behind the eardrum, an often natural symptom of colds with sinus congestion. Blow your nose gently, and over time that will help reduce some of the negative pressure that keeps the fluid up behind your eardrum. Also, resist the urge to 'snuff' (sorry, can't think of a better verb) your runny nose, which is the worst as far as creating suction which gets you that fluid in your ears.

My mother was an audiologist, and I also had a history of ear problems growing up -- so I (unfortunately) know more about the mechanics of this stuff than I otherwise would have.

It may take a full week or two to unblock. I think it was a good 10 days after I got back from DC before my hearing fully returned to normal.

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Sounds like blocked Eustacian tubes - a common affliction with divers. Should clear OK as the infection goes but try holding nose/holding breath and applying moderate pressure via the diaphragm.

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Force yourself to yawn, that seems to operate the correct muscles. That little trick usually causes my ear to unblock (I have the same problem frequently).

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Get yourself to an ENT as soon as possible. I suffer from bad ears, imcluding suffering from tinnitis. If my ears are blocked, I won't get on a plane.

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After what I went through recently, I would suggest seeing a doctor. I had an ear infection (first time in my life, as far as I can remember) that began in early January as I was fighting off a bad flu. My right ear was blocked with fluid for several days, and I ignored it, expecting it to clear by itself. Then I spent a full night dealing with an excruciating ear ache, and saw a doctor the next morning. They gave me a 10-day course of amoxicillin, which did zilch. Then two weeks of a stronger antibiotic (Augmentin)... again, zilch. Finally, they gave me a steroid (prednisone) which did the trick pretty quickly. Going for a month with no hearing in one ear was not fun, and I must say, a bit scary.

If you've been sick, it could be the beginnings of an ear infection. I wouldn't wait too long before getting it checked out.

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Jim is so spot on. I've had numerous ear infections in my adulthood that eventually it lead to tinnitus, which aint fun (although I've gotten used to it).

Don't mess around.

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Let me recommend a combination of canned compressed air and WD-40. Both work splendidly on machines, and the human body is the most magnificent machine of all.

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I'd try a decongestant.

FWIW, I was using both Sudafed and Flonase every night for almost two weeks, along with the course of Augmentin, all of which did nothing. YMMV.

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A decongestant may work for some and not for others. It's worked for me in the past. I'd recommend giving it a go before going to see a doctor.

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Force yourself to yawn, that seems to operate the correct muscles. That little trick usually causes my ear to unblock (I have the same problem frequently).

Try yawning, both opening your mouth super-wide -- but also try yawning while keeping your top and bottom teeth at most about half an inch apart (so keep your mouth 'mostly closed' while you yawn). I've found my ears will 'pop' a lot more easily by yawning while trying not to open my mouth very much.

Above all, do NOT use a paperclip.

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A decongestant may work for some and not for others.

True. Just out of curiosity, though, have you ever had a serious ear infection in your adult life?

Good article. The only thing I found odd was this:

"I consulted a local ear, nose and throat specialist. In lieu of antibiotics that could have taken days to heal the infection, the doctor performed a Myringotomy, a minor surgical procedure. He punctured my eardrum, drained the fluid and inserted a plastic tube."

For me, the steroid (prednisone) was the thing that solved the problem, and it began producing results within 12 hours after my first dose. Even before I began the second antibiotic Augmentin, I was told that a steroid would be the next step taken (before going to an ENT doctor for surgery) if the Augmentin failed to do the trick.

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If yawning won't help, then I'm with Jim---consult a doctor.

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"I consulted a local ear, nose and throat specialist. In lieu of antibiotics that could have taken days to heal the infection, the doctor performed a Myringotomy, a minor surgical procedure. He punctured my eardrum, drained the fluid and inserted a plastic tube."

For me, the steroid (prednisone) was the thing that solved the problem, and it began producing results within 12 hours after my first dose. Even before I began the second antibiotic Augmentin, I was told that a steroid would be the next step taken (before going to an ENT doctor for surgery) if the Augmentin failed to do the trick.

I've had tubes in my ears twice (both times as a teen). Unless you're having a long term (over the course of two or more winter seasons), and reoccurring problem -- I cannot imagine a doctor recommending you get tubes. And frankly, if they did, I'd go get a second opinion, unless you've tried some other options without success.

To start with, take an OTC sinus decongestant, be careful to blow your nose gently, do NOT 'sniff up' the stuff your nose is clogged with, and wait it out. If you have a more significant sinus infection that lasts more than 6-8 days, you should definitely go to the doctor and get a prescription to fight it, probably with something probably like Amoxicillin or Augmentin.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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Let me recommend a combination of canned compressed air and WD-40. Both work splendidly on machines, and the human body is the most magnificent machine of all.

Yeah, do you have an air compressor like the construction guys have? :ph34r:

Kind of hard to seal the nostrils.

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<Insert obligatory "I'll take your music collection" post here.>

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A friend urged me to try oregano oil as a natural antibiotic. It successfully fought a nasal-sinus-throat infection that was messing up my hearing even more than I realized at the time.

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A decongestant may work for some and not for others.

True. Just out of curiosity, though, have you ever had a serious ear infection in your adult life?

I don't think I've had one as an adult but do recall having them as a child and teen, none of which stemmed from travel in an airplane. I do remember them being extremely painful. As I've grown older, I wonder if I've become more sensitive to allergens or other things in the air. A lot of times I don't really have the symptoms of a cold or allergy like sneezing/ runny nose, etc. but I will experience the same type of sensation you get when you travel on a plane and your ears don't pop; congestion and pressure in the ears sometimes leading to a headache and/or slight temporary lightheadedness sometimes accompanied by sinus pain/pressure.

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I have been dealing with eustachian tube dysfunction for about 4 years, and it isn't fun. (Frequently feel like my head is going to implode, occasional bouts with very loud tinnitus, etc.). Nothing works all the time for anyone, but here are a couple things that work sometimes for some people:

1) Exhaling moderately forcefully through your nasal passages while pinching your nose hard. This can cause a little pain in the eardrums, but often solves the problem (at least temporarily).

2) Med pack, which is a graduated dose of prednisone as Jim R suggested. Needless to say, this is prescription only. It can hurt your stomach a little, but is the most effective pharmaceutical I've found for this problem.

3) Nasonex, which is a rather powerful prescription-only antihistamine that you spray up your nose. If you are lucky, a few droplets will find their way into the eustachian tube, and provide at least temporary relief.

It sounds like you are basically dealing with a temporary case of ETD, so it is worth discussing these options with your doctor (option 1 can be safely attempted without calling a doctor first).

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Another bad outcome of long distance flying: It murders your ears. Just had a four hour surgery to repair a gapping hole in my eardrum the occurred a couple of flights ago, on a trip to Africa, and the doctor put a tube in the other ear. That I kept flying to Africa after that happened didn't help either, but the ENT said it would not make any difference. Guys & Dolls, take care of your ears! I don't what I would do if I couldn't hear music anymore -- that's a scary thought....

edit for spelling

Edited by Matthew

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A friend urged me to try oregano oil as a natural antibiotic. It successfully fought a nasal-sinus-throat infection that was messing up my hearing even more than I realized at the time.

Or it was a coincidence.

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