I took their warning seriously especially after one guest speaker swore he sat on the jumpseat next to a flight attendant whose eardrum ruptured and caused blood to “pour out of her ear” as she “screamed in pain”.
Not wanting to suffer the same fate, I’ve been cautious this year when I’ve fallen ill. I don’t usually get sick, but this year I’ve somehow caught three bouts of either the flu or a sinus infection. The too-busy-to-talk walk-in clinic doctor didn’t think it was necessary to diagnose me and quickly prescribed medication that “would cure either thing.” (Ohh-kay??? Thanks, doc?)
Due to my health and ear problems, I've had to drop two trips so far which will cost me a lot of money and make my next few paychecks look pretty pathetic. I’m feeling better now, but started second-guessing my decision to stay home instead of "toughing it out". (I wasn't contagious when I dropped the second flight, but I still had an earache.) To assuage my fears and clear up myths about flying with clogged ears, I’ve done a little research and I’m happy to share my findings with you! I’ll post them below in a Question and Answer form.
Have YOU ever had a problem with your ears during flight? What helped you?
Hope to hear from you! Happy travels!
Can an eardrum rupture inflight due to pressurization problems?
Could the story about the flight attendant’s bleeding ear be true?
What sort of medical examinations are required before becoming a flight attendant?
What causes ear pressurization problems? How can I unblock my ears inflight?
Surprisingly NOT mentioned is the method where you place a cup of hot water next to your ear (making sure to keep the water from splashing INSIDE the ear)! The steam supposedly helps relieve the pressure. I tried it once when I had a bad cold and it seemed to work although the timing could have been coincidental.
When I’m flying, I have to pop my ears numerous times a day. With practice I’ve gotten to the point where swallowing hard or yawning will usually do the trick.
While doing my research, I discovered that several businesses are selling ear popping devices. I have no idea whether or not these are actually useful (or safe?), but if anyone knows please write me in the comments below.
Do passengers often complain about their ears?
Have you ever had an inflight medical emergency where a passenger could not pop their ears?
Interesting Fact. If everyone on the plane starts having ear discomfort / ear blockage at the same time, it means you're probably about to experience a rapid decompression so get ready to grab your oxygen mask! Just another fun thing you get to think about all the time when you're a flight attendant. :) My ears usually only "pop" on ascent and descent so if it happens inflight, I always tense up, turn to my crewmate and ask, "Are your ears popping?" Thankfully, the answer has always been no.