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Old Apr 26, 10, 2:24 am   #1
 
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Severe Ear Pain Upon Airplane Descent


My wife had very severe ear pain on a recent Southwest Airline flite from Ontario to San Jose, CA. After 10 minutes in flite, the pilot announced that we were returning to the Ontario airport due to difficulties with the pressurization system in the aircraft. The plan was grounded, and we were put on another flite that left Ontario about 3 hours later.
My wife has had severe ear pain (especially the left ear) on descent for years, and takes prescription nose drops and other meds prior to flying, and while in-flite, prior to descending. Generally,she has not had too many problems, as she lets the flite attendant know of her difficulty, and the attendant speaks to the captain about being extra careful about maintaining cabin pressure while descending.
However, often she has been told that there is NOTHING that the captain can do to assist with the problem, as the plane's rate of descent, etc. is entirely up to the Control Tower.
Is this true? I would think that with today's modern commercial aircraft, even the smaller 737s, that the pilot can still control cabin pressure so that severe ear pain is non-existent, or is minimal. I would appreciate hearing from other Flyer Talkers and/or pilots on this matter.
Also, any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance.
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Old Apr 26, 10, 2:34 am   #2
 
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Ear Pain on Descent

I don't have to use special ear medications, but what has always worked for me is Vicks Vapo-Rub, swab a dab in each ear - don't clog the ear with it, just swab. This works for ALL kinds of ear-aches! It works, someone else gave me this advice and I was shocked. This also works on babies! That's why they scream on flights, their little ears hurt. Try this, lemme know if it works for you!
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Old Apr 26, 10, 9:28 pm   #3
 
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Smile Severe Ear Pain Upon Airplane Descent

Thanks for the advice. Will check it out on our next flite, and let you know.
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Old May 8, 10, 2:02 am   #4
 
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Try Ear Planes. These slow the change of pressure against the ear drum and can be very helpful. There also used to be an ear plug which could be filled with warm water to reduce the impact of any middle ear effusion.
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Old May 9, 10, 2:40 am   #5
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fleef View Post
I don't have to use special ear medications, but what has always worked for me is Vicks Vapo-Rub, swab a dab in each ear - don't clog the ear with it, just swab. This works for ALL kinds of ear-aches! It works, someone else gave me this advice and I was shocked. This also works on babies! That's why they scream on flights, their little ears hurt. Try this, lemme know if it works for you!
How to get this on a carry-on?

While not "severe", my ear pain on decent is very annoying and sure I'd cry if I were a baby. I'll give it a try.
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Old May 10, 10, 6:05 pm   #6
 
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I don't understand how rubbing something in your ear canal will have any effect on the pressure building up in the middle ear.
I would have your wife see an ENT doctor; if the pain is so bad it may be more than simple pressure problem.
Does she also have sinus problems? sinus/facial pain? does she have allergies?
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Old May 27, 10, 9:55 pm   #7
 
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Sevee Ear Pain on Airplane Descent

Quote:
Originally Posted by keisari View Post
I don't understand how rubbing something in your ear canal will have any effect on the pressure building up in the middle ear.
I would have your wife see an ENT doctor; if the pain is so bad it may be more than simple pressure problem.
Does she also have sinus problems? sinus/facial pain? does she have allergies?

We're not aware of any sinus problems, but my wife does have hay fever type allergies. Thanks for the tips........she's got an ENT appointment in about a week.
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Old May 29, 10, 4:29 pm   #8
 
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The pilot does have no way to change the desent, and think of the chaos it would cause it the re routed at every complaint. I do sympathize, it happens to me from time to time. Make sure you wife also has not sinus or nose congestion, and try looking up some equalization techniques. What works for me is to swallow with your mouth open
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Old May 30, 10, 3:13 pm   #9
 
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Severe Ear Pain Upon Airplane Descent

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Originally Posted by millsdale View Post
The pilot does have no way to change the desent, and think of the chaos it would cause it the re routed at every complaint. I do sympathize, it happens to me from time to time. Make sure you wife also has not sinus or nose congestion, and try looking up some equalization techniques. What works for me is to swallow with your mouth open
Thanks for your advice.
I recognize that rate of descent is under the control of the Airport tower controllers, but was questioning if the pilot could adjust cabin pressure based on the approved rate of descent.
In other words, once the rate of descent is determined, does the pilot have any control over cabin pressure in order to ease or eliminate severe ear pain for passengers?
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Old Jun 5, 10, 1:51 pm   #10
 
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I carry a small jar of Vicks with me in my one quart baggie in my purse. I have done so for years with no problem. So there is no difficulty getting this through security in a carry-on.

It is, of course, not possible for the captain to adjust the cabin pressure when landing the plane. I also believe this is a problem that an ENT doctor should address with your wife.

I assume she has tried the typical remedies such as chewing gum, sucking on a mint or hard piece of candy, and swallowing with her mouth open? I do not use Vicks for this purpose and have never heard of using it like this, but I suppose it would not hurt to try this either.

It sounds as if she has some type of blockage in her sinus passage. Hopefully your doctor will be able to diagnose the problem.
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Old Jul 10, 10, 10:53 am   #11
 
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I wonder if the ear popper would help? It is a prescription item, so you can discuss with your wife's ENT.
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Old Jul 10, 10, 10:25 pm   #12
 
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I used to have horrible pain upon landing. Afrin at takeoff and prior to landing combined with Ear Planes has helped a lot.
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Old Sep 14, 10, 3:49 pm   #13
 
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Chronic ear infection

I had a cold flying from SLC to SEA (always a long slooooow descent in Seattle) and was in great pain. Stewardess suggested warm moist papertowels in plastic coffee cups held over my ears. DONT DO IT. It cured the problem then, but drove the infection into my inner ear where it has existed for the last 10 years.

Now I have to use ear-planes even driving over the mountains. And, sometimes it still hurts, and my hearing is slightly impaired in one ear.
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Old Dec 9, 10, 5:25 pm   #14
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sawsmanfc View Post
Thanks for your advice.
I recognize that rate of descent is under the control of the Airport tower controllers, but was questioning if the pilot could adjust cabin pressure based on the approved rate of descent.
In other words, once the rate of descent is determined, does the pilot have any control over cabin pressure in order to ease or eliminate severe ear pain for passengers?
Based on what I've read in some of the various "Ask the Pilot" threads in other forums, the pressurization of the plane is based on an ascent/descent chart that plane manufacturers put out. I think the pressurization is handled automatically by the plane's systems, but the pilot may have some control over it. In any case, most planes going to 35,000ft. are going to be pressurized to the equivalent of about 8,000ft in altitude at cruise level. Most planes can't be pressurized beyond that point due to structural limits (although I've heard the new 787 may be able to go to the equivalent of 5,000ft).

In any case, I don't think the pilots can do much to minimize ear pain by changing the cabin pressure- it's already set to change fairly gradually. Fact of the matter is, the pressure's still going to change by several thousand feet. But I'm glad your wife has seen an ENT and I hope that helped solve the problem.
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Old Mar 30, 12, 12:17 pm   #15
 
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Smile Real solution!

I have actually had severe ear and head pains on every flight since I was a kid. It's a common problem in people with narrow Eustachian tubes. You guys are right common yawning, gum, and other tricks don't work!
A flight attendant actually told me about using Sudafed. One tablet pre-flight and one and hour before descent. If it's a short trip, one tab should do the trick. Also moving to the back of plane also helps alleviate pressure. Hope that helps
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