When the colder months arrive it can cause stress on your ears and hearing because of the drop in temperature. One of the most common ear problems in winter is 'popping ears', which is due to pressure or pocket of air between the outer and middle ear - as your ear cavity tries to equalise the pressure on the other side of your eardrum.
Let me explain, the pressure in your ear ends up there via the Eustachian tube that connects your nose to your middle ear, which is there to equalise any pressure in your ears. Every time you swallow, yawn or blow your nose this tube opens up to do just that.
Sometimes air pressure changes too quickly for your Eustachian tube to adapt and do its job - like being on a plane or experiencing sudden changes of temperature. The transition from cold weather to the warmth of the indoors can also affect your ears pressure. In these cases, you can physically feel the pressure and air pocket pushing against your eardrum causing it to pop or even feeling uncomfortable or painful.
To elaborate more on the examples above, our ears pop when we are on a plane because the higher pressure being closer to the ground. When the plane eventually lands, the cabin pressure increases so your ears have to adapt quickly. So your ear's pressure rises when you land and decreases when you take off. Sometimes if you are already experiencing blocked Eustachian tubes and then going on a plane, you can suffer from Ear Barotrauma
The cold weather, allergies and sinus infections can also cause your Eustachian tube to block and hinder the stabilisation of your ear pressure. This is commonly known as Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.
When your ears pop it is because your eardrum is going back into place, as the pressure in your middle ear balances out with the pressure outside your body. It does this by letting the air flow back and forth between your throat and middle ear. It also gets rid of any excess fluid during the process.
You can pop your ears or your Eustachian tubes can be cleared by:
In my experience, your Eustachian tubes will generally sort themselves out over a course of a few days. It is also quite safe to pop your own ears. However, if any of the above methods hurt your eardrum - you must stop immediately. If you continue with these manoeuvres with ear pain, it could cause your eardrum to rupture.
Generally, ear popping is quite normal, especially in winter. That being said, it is important to remember that if your ears feel blocked, painful, your ear weeps fluid, see any signs of blood from your ears or you lose your hearing - you need to seek medical help immediately. You could have an ear infection, glue ear, build-up of wax or suffering from a burst eardrum.
As a general rule, you should seek professional help if your symptoms are severe or last more than two weeks. It is always worthwhile having your hearing checked if you are concerned about changes to your hearing. We can put you in touch with the right local audiologist you can trust.
If you have any questions regarding hearing loss, hearing healthcare or hearing aids - please contact us free on 0800 567 7621
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