When your ears pop, it may be due to flying, scuba diving, hiking a mountain, or just riding in an elevator. When air pressure decreases around you as you go higher or increases as you go lower, the pressure in your ear isn’t equal. This causes pressure on one side of your eardrum, and it can be painful. But the pain is temporary and you can ease it.
When you feel this pressure, you may want to pop your ears to relieve it. There are several ways to do that.
The Process of Popping Your Ears
The part of your ear that pops is in your Eustachian tube. This tube is made to protect your middle ear and ventilate it. The Eustachian tube works to keep air pressure equal on both sides of your eardrum.
When pressure builds up in your middle ear, your Eustachian tubes will open. The pressure in your ear equalizes when the tubes open. This is what makes your ears pop, to relieve pressure and potential pain.
Pop Your Ears by Holding Your Nose
One of the most recommended ways to pop your ears is by holding your nose and blowing out. First, take a breath. Then close your mouth and nostrils with your fingers. Lightly blow out against the pressure. This should make your ears pop.
The pressure you’re blowing against forces your Eustachian tubes open a little which drains pressure and fluid stuck in your ear. It’s a common misconception that this method is dangerous. As long as you don’t force too much pressure or sneeze like this, you won’t have risks of bursting your eardrum.
Pop Your Ears by Blowing up a Balloon
A unique way to pop your ears is by blowing up a balloon. The pressure you’re using to expand the balloon helps push air up to your Eustachian tube. You can use this method any time you feel pressure buildup or fullness in your ear.
There are balloons that you can buy specifically to help pop your ears. If this is a common problem you have, you can try these out. These balloons work by using your nose to blow it up and block off one nostril at a time. These balloons are mainly for children who have repeated buildup in their ear.
You shouldn’t do this method if you have a cold or a runny nose. This could cause infected mucus to go into your middle ear and give you an ear infection.
Pop Your Ears by Flexing Your Jaw
In some cases, people who flex the muscles behind their jaw will help their ear pop. This flexing can open the Eustachian tube to release the pressure.
This method may be a little gentler on your ears than using your nose to pop them. If you’re flying or using an elevator and feel a pressure change, you can work your jaw to avoid a build-up of pressure.
Pop Your Ears by Yawning
By opening your mouth to yawn, you’re swallowing air. The swallowing and movement of your mouth can help pop your ears, equalizing the pressure inside and outside of your ears.
Pop Your Ears by Swallowing Often
By swallowing water or another drink your ears will pop, equalizing the pressure. A more intense method to pop your ears by swallowing is to pinch your nose closed. This creates a vacuum in your nose that helps your Eustachian tubes open.
Chewing gum during pressure changes is also a common way to pop your ears. Chewing gum or sucking on a mint helps your mouth salivate more and causes frequent swallowing. The action of moving your jaw to chew can also equalize the pressure.
When to See a Doctor
If your ears often feel like they need to be popped, you might have an underlying health condition called Eustachian tube dysfunction. This happens because your tubes can't equalize pressure well. It can make your ears feel full constantly.
If your doctor says you have the condition, they’ll recommend the right treatment plan for you. They may prescribe a decongestant, antihistamine, or allergy shots. Your ears may be bothered when flying or during allergy season. In severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to fix the problems in your Eustachian tubes.