With the Holiday season in full swing and people flying, swimming and Diving we thought it might be a good time to discuss Ear Barotrauma a condition caused by changes in air pressure and typically affects the ears. You’ll recognise it if you’ve ever felt your ears ‘pop’ after a flight or going diving.
Symptoms of Ear Barotrauma
Feeling of pressure, fullness or discomfort in the ear
Muffled sound or difficulty hearing
In more advanced cases, you might experience severe ear pain, injury to the eardrum and dizziness.
Causes of Ear Barotrauma
Our middle ears contain tubes (called Eustachian tubes) that connect your nose and throat to the middle of your ear, as well as being responsible for balancing your ear pressure. When these tubes become blocked, it affects the way the ear pressure is managed and can cause Ear Barotrauma.
Pressure changes associated with high altitudes is the most common reason for this, and most people will experience the conditions when a plane is landing or taking off, when they go diving, or if they are in a mountainous area where air pressure varies. Higher pressure can cause the eardrum to stretch, which is why your hearing is affected.
Young children will often experience Ear Barotrauma as they have narrow Eustachian tubes.
Diagnosis for Ear Barotrauma
Your GP will ask you about your symptoms, and when they occurred. They’ll also have a look inside your ears with an instrument called an otoscope, checking whether there is any fluid in your ear as well as the condition of your eardrum.
Ear Barotrauma treatment
It’s quite normal for cases of ear barotrauma to clear on their own, without any need for treatment. This should happen after a few minutes or an hour after your symptoms begin.
In more severe cases, treatment and recovery time will depend on the underlying cause. Ear barotrauma can sometimes result in a ruptured eardrum, which can take a few weeks to completely heal.
Chronic cases of Ear Barotrauma
Chronic cases can cause further issues, and in more severe cases people may experience symptoms such as:
A feeling of pressure in the ear
Drainage or bleeding from the ear
Preventing Ear Barotrauma
If you’re on a plane, or in high altitude areas like mountains, there are a few things you can do to make sure the tubes in your ears stay open and you prevent ear barotrauma:
Chew gum or suck on sweets
Make sure you’re awake while the plane is landing
Wear earplugs designed for air travel
Antihistamines or decongestants may help if you have allergies or a cold
When to consult a hearcare specialist
If you experience any severe pain, dizziness or any fluid or drainage from the ear, it’s best to go and see your doctor. They may be able to prescribe something to help with your symptoms or diagnose any underlying conditions.
However, if you experience hearing loss that doesn’t go away, then you should see an Audiologist