What Is Ear Barotrauma?
That refers to the discomfort we often feel when there’s a change in pressure inside our EARS. Most people experience barotrauma on airplanes – when it feels like the inner ear is swollen and won’t “pop.” It’s also the most common diving injury! Because when people go scuba diving, the pressure rapidly changes within the first 14 feet under water.
So, why do pressure changes trigger PAIN in our ears? Because normally, when we’re on the ground, tiny tubes connecting our middle ears to the back of our nose and throat help stabilize the pressure inside our ears, by allowing air to escape. But when we’re flying or under water, pressure changes cause those tubes to collapse – so air gets trapped INSIDE our ear. And as pressure builds, it pushes against our sensitive eardrums, triggering everything from pain, to ruptured eardrums, to permanent hearing loss!
The good news is that, for most people, ear barotrauma is easily fixed by yawning or chewing gum, since that activates the jaw muscles in a way that helps reopen the tubes. But if you experience ear pain that lasts more than a few hours, talk to your doctor.