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5/14/2019

Can Traveling by Plane Worsen Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of sound where no actual external noise is present. While it is commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus can manifest many different perceptions of sound, including buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing and clicking. In some rare cases, tinnitus patients report hearing music.

Today, air travel is a common form of transport in our ever-more connected world. With tinnitus, air travel can be uncomfortable. The best way to get the most out of your flight is to relax, but tinnitus symptoms can often make this impossible. Throw in the changes in air pressure during ascent and descent, and you may be concerned if traveling by plane worsen tinnitus.

How Can Flying Affect Your Ears?

Changes in air pressure can put stress on your eardrum and middle ear, resulting in a phenomenon known as airplane ear. Typical symptoms include discomfort, a feeling of fullness or muffling of sounds. It may affect one or both ears, and generally only lasts for a short period of time. If after flying you experience airplane ear for more than a few hours, we recommend speaking to a hearing care professional.

Flying And Tinnitus

Airplanes are loud. In fact, between 85 dB and 105 dB. When you throw in the changes in air pressure requiring your ears to adjust to a new altitude, it’s no surprise that your ears can struggle. For people with tinnitus, the symptoms can be exacerbated, particularly if their tinnitus is severe.

Sound-Exacerbated Tinnitus

Noise affecting your tinnitus symptoms depends entirely on the type of tinnitus you have. Most people with tinnitus experience high-frequency tinnitus. That is, their symptoms worsen when exposed to high-frequency sounds. The typical frequency range of a jet engine is mid-frequency, so for many tinnitus sufferers, the noise of the aircraft may not make the symptoms worse.

For those with tinnitus that is worsened by mid-frequency noise, or people with tinnitus tht is aggravated by loud sounds, airplane travel can be uncomfortable.

Altitude-Exacerbated Tinnitus

Ears popping during the ascent and descent of an airplane is something most air-travelers are familiar with. But for those who have tinnitus, this ear-popping can be problematic. The reason that your ears pop is actually your eustachian tube working as it is designed to. To equalize the pressure inside your middle ear, your eustachian tube releases a bubble of ear.

If the eustachian tube doesn’t equalize the pressure, the thin membrane of your eardrum is unnaturally stretched as a result of the vacuum that’s created inside your inner ear. This can sometimes be painful, or make sounds distorted. Tinnitus sufferers find that the stretching of this membrane can amplify the symptoms of their tinnitus.

Tips To Prevent Airplane Tinnitus

To help prevent airplane tinnitus, you must first understand if you need hearing protection against sound-related tinnitus, altitude related tinnitus, or both. The hearing care professionals at Audiology Associates of Greeley would be happy to discuss your symptoms and determine the appropriate protection for your next trip. Other tips that you can apply include:

  • Bring noise-canceling headphones or earmuffs with you on the flight. This will help protect your hearing against the excessive noise of the jet engine. You may only need to wear the protection during take-off, when the noise from the engines is highest.
  • Avoid earplugs. These may in fact worsen your tinnitus symptoms.
  • When you book your seats, choose one far away from the engines (or ask the airline to give you an appropriate seat)
  • During ascent and descent, try to yawn and swallow. These actions help to open up your eustachian tubes, enabling them to equalize the pressure.
  • Try to avoid flying when you’re congested. A cold or flu can block your eustachian tubes, making it more difficult for them to equalize the pressure in your ears.
  • Stay occupied during the flight. Try to enjoy the on-board entertainment system, read a book or listen to music. These can help to take the focus off of the tinnitus symptoms.

Tinnitus doesn’t have to stop you from flying. The tips above will be able to help alleviate some of your symptoms, so you can jet off on your next summer vacation without worry.

If you’d like to discuss further potential treatment for tinnitus, get in touch with the hearing care professionals at Audiology Associates of Greeley. Our team would be happy to help explore relief options for you. Call us today on 970-352-288, or click here to request an appointment online.

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Audiology Associates has provided hearing care since 1972. We offer general audiology services for all ages, with an emphasis in amplification and operative monitoring. Our practice is the oldest and most trusted audiology and hearing aid practice in Colorado.

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