Don’t forget your ear care when jetting off this Christmas

There are things which, if you forget to take on holiday with you, are easy enough to pick up when you get there, such as a toothbrush. One thing you can’t buy, however, is your health, and as record numbers of travellers look set to flee the British gloom this winter, Deafness Research UK, the national charity, have said that ear health whilst inflight should be a top priority for everyone.

They have relaunched their free ‘Ear Care While Flying’ booklet to make sure that you do exactly this, so don’t leave your copy at home with the toothbrush. With an independent survey showing over 70% experience some health problems when flying, it’s not an issue to be dismissed lightly, particularly when methods can be used to ease the pain.

Over a third of people (34%) have experienced ear pain during a flight, with the second most common complaint swollen feet or ankles (19%); but with many of us going abroad to visit family and friends, it makes sense to be as comfortable as possible to hear those tidings of joy

Deafness Research UK’s leaflet, Ear Care While Flying, provides numerous tips and practical advice with answers to commonly asked questions – for hearing aid users, parents and those of us prone to more than the usual discomfort.

“No one wants ear pain during a flight to ruin Christmas before it’s even begun,” said Vivienne Michael, Chief Executive of Deafness Research UK. “Young children can be particularly difficult to help when they are actually experiencing the pain. As always, prevention is better than cure, so reading our leaflet and taking precautions before you embark can make sure you have a pain free, stress free trip.”

Part of the solution involves understanding the problem. Discomfort results from changes in cabin pressure. These are noticeable as the aircraft takes off or descends. During descent, the air in the middle ear is at a lower pressure than air in the cabin and needs to be topped up to restore equal pressure.

Air reaches the middle ear through the Eustachian tube. This is normally closed, but opens when we swallow, yawn, or chew. For some people the Eustachian tube doesn’t open as easily as for others, so the pressure may not be equalised so quickly. This can cause throbbing pain in the middle ear, a dullness of hearing, or a feeling of ‘fullness’ in the ear canal.

Once on the plane, you can minimise ear pain or discomfort by swallowing regularly. This can be hard to get young children to do on cue, so keeping a drink handy can be a useful tip. Boiled sweets (or a humbug) can also help as they all encourage air to pass more easily through the Eustachian tube. Other tried and trusted methods include blowing through your nose while pinching your nostrils, and yawning can also help equalise the pressure.

For a free copy of Deafness Research UK’s leaflet Ear Care When Flying, sponsored by Cirrus Healthcare Products, email the Deafness Research UK Advisory Service at or phone them free on 0808 808 2222, or visit Deafness Research UK’s web page