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Ear Problems: Changes in Air Pressure - Topic Overview

Ear injuries can occur when air pressure outside the ear increases or decreases while the air pressure inside the ear remains the same. This might happen when an airplane changes altitude or when a scuba diver descends or ascends under water.

  • A gradual increase in air pressure outside the ear can cause a buildup of fluid in the space behind the eardrum (otitis media with effusion).
  • A sudden, dramatic increase in air pressure outside the ear can cause the eardrum to rupture.

Both of these types of injuries are know as barotrauma.

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    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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