Many of us have experienced an uncomfortable sensation on planes during take-off or landing. We hear a quiet 'crackling' sound and the ambient noise seems very muffled. Our own voice somehow sounds louder and a bit echoey. The same thing happens when we go through a tunnel on the train, or take a cable car up the mountain. It is commonly known as ear pressure.
CausesIf the pressure in the middle ear is exactly the same as the pressure outside and the ear is free of wax, we hear perfectly normally. The Eustachian tube plays an important role in this process. It connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and is responsible for allowing air to pass in and out of the ear, ensuring that the air pressure is correctly balanced. When planes take off, they climb several hundred metres very quickly. But it takes longer for the pressure to equalise. This creates a build-up of pressure in the middle ear and causes the eardrum to bulge out slightly. The result can be an uncomfortable or even painful sensation in the ears, and it can alter the way we hear things.
What can you do?Pressure in the ears is generally harmless and doesn't last long. There are a few simple things you can do, such as making normal chewing and swallowing movements, or yawning. This generally causes the Eustachian tube to open. If that doesn't work, you can try a technique called the Valsalva manoeuvre. Breathe in normally, then pinch your nose closed and shut your mouth. Now try to exhale. As the air cannot escape through your nose or mouth, it is forced into the Eustachian tube. This can equalise the pressure.
When do I need to see a doctor?If the pressure cannot be equalised using the techniques described above and the ear pressure continues for a prolonged period but without any additional pain, you can try treating the swelling in the Eustachian tube with a decongestant nasal spray from a pharmacy. If this doesn't work, or if you are experiencing ringing in your ears (tinnitus) or pain, you should seek medical advice. It may be that the pressure is the result of other problems such as sudden hearing loss, allergies, a middle ear infection or sinusitis. Anatomical abnormalities can also make it harder for the pressure to equalise.
SWICA BENECURAYou've been suffering from severe ear pressure for several days. You're wondering whether you should treat the problem with home remedies or if it would be better to visit a doctor or a pharmacist. The BENECURA app from SWICA supports you when you feel unwell or become ill. SWICA customers can use the SymptomCheck feature of the BENECURA app, which was developed by doctors, to obtain information easily, quickly and reliably and immediately receive a personal recommendation about what to do next.
In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.