Home Remedies To Relieve Airplane Ear Pain Naturally

Updated on January 30th, 2020
how to get rid of airplane ear

Do you feel angst about flying on an airplane because of the intense pain of in-flight ear block? Well, then you are not alone! Airplane ear is one of the most common and dreaded problems for a lot of airplane travelers. The culprit behind this painful ear condition is the change in barometric pressure.

During takeoff and landing, the barometric pressure or air pressure outside decreases and increases rapidly. When the pressure inside your middle ear fails to acclimatize to this sudden drop or increase in pressure as quickly, it creates an imbalance, leaving you with a plugged-up feeling in your ears.

According to a study(1), an estimated 10% of adults and 22% of children may also experience changes to the eardrum after a flight.

Traveling on an airplane doesn’t need to be a nightmare nor a frustrating experience. Airplane ear or Ear barotrauma can be proactively managed with the help of some all-natural remedies. So if the thought of clogged ears has been dampening your travel plans, here are some quick tips that will help you get rid of airplane ear pain.

Did You Know?

Changes in air pressure during flying can cause vertigo, hearing loss, ear-drum pain, and in rare cases, even perforation.

How to Get Rid of Airplane Ear

A stuffy or plugged-up feeling in the ear, muffled hearing and/or crackling and popping noises are all common symptoms of airplane ear. If you are somebody who struggles with this condition, here are some old-time and all-natural home remedies you can go back to:

CURE 1: Home Remedies

1. Mineral Oil

Mineral Oil
Image: ShutterStock

Earwax buildup is a common reason for blockage in the ears. Mineral oil, also called ‘liquid petroleum’ or ‘paraffin oil’ works wonderfully to treat problems of earwax buildup.

How to use it?

If you suspect that excessive ear wax is the cause of your airplane ear pain, then pour some mineral oil into a small dropper bottle and instill about 3 to 5 drops in the ear that are affected just before bedtime. The oil will soften hardened and dry wax overnight. When you administer mineral oil, just remember that it has to be at room temperature though.

2. Warm Compress

Applying a warm compress may also be effective for a clogged ear. The warm compress will help the tightened ear muscles relax and promote blood flow.

How to use it?

To make a warm compress, fill a bowl with hot water. The water should not, however, be scalding hot. Soak a towel in this and wring out any excess water. Then fold the towel into a square and hold it against your affected ear for about 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Valsalva Maneuver

Valsalva Maneuver is a well-recommended remedy for airplane ear pressure. This air equalization technique opens up clogged ears by forcing air through your Eustachian tube and sinuses.

How to do the Valsalva maneuver?

To perform this simple exercise, follow these steps:

  1. Hold your nose and keep your mouth closed.
  2. Try to blow air out as if inflating a balloon.
  3. Doing this in a sitting or squatting position, as if when having a bowel movement is recommended.
  4. Do this for no more than 10 to 15 seconds.

[Read: Natural Remedies for Ear Pain]

 4. Toynbee Maneuver

The Toynbee Maneuver is another simple exercise that can help to relieve ear canal pressure. This technique works by decreasing nasopharyngeal pressure against the Eustachian tube and middle ear, pushing it open in response.

How to do the Toynbee Maneuver?

To perform the Toynbee Maneuver, follow these steps:

  1. Pinch your nose while keeping your mouth closed.
  2. Slowly try to swallow down. Having a sip of water may make it easier to do this.
  3. You can take anywhere between 10 to 15 seconds to perform this.

 5. Saltwater Gargle

saltwater for

Saltwater gargle is a frequently recommended remedy for symptoms of sore throat and ear infections. A saltwater gargle provides relief for airplane ear pain by softening and loosening dried mucus which is a common cause for nasal and ear congestion. Salt can also effectively fight off bacteria and microbes that cause infection.

How to use it?

Mix one teaspoon of table salt with 8 ounces of warm water. Then use this saline solution to gargle. Repeat several times. As your nasal passage begins to clear up, the discomfort in your ears will reduce.

6. Apple Cider Vinegar

Your bottle of apple cider vinegar isn’t just good for your salad; it is an effective treatment for airplane ear pain too. Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which is shown to have antibacterial properties and prevents infections.

How to use it?

To use apple cider vinegar to treat clogged ears, mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of distilled water. Using a clean dropper bottle or baby syringe, apply 3 to 4 drops of this solution in the affected ear. Cover the ear with a cotton ball and keep your head leaned to one side so that the drops flow into the ear properly. You can do this 1-2 times daily.

Did You Know?

Ear wax is actually a self-cleaning mechanism of the outer ear. It traps dust and other small particles and also prevents the growth of infection-causing bacteria and fungi.

CURE 2: Essential Oils to Treat Airplane Ear Pain

1. Tea Tree Essential Oil

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has powerful curative properties owing to an antibacterial substance called terpinene 4-ol. This helps to clear infections and ease ear pain naturally.

How to use it?

The direct application of this oil to the ears is not recommended as it can cause damage to the inner ear. You can instead use tea tree oil in steam to treat airplane ear pain. For this, boil about 3 cups of water in a saucepan and add 4-5 drops of tea tree oil to this. Once the water has boiled, place a towel over your head, positioning the affected ear in a way that the oil-infused steam enters this. You can do this for up to 4 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes each.

[Read: Tea Tree Oil For Ear Infections]

2. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is a natural expectorant. It promotes healthy respiratory function and relieves blocked sinuses which could be the reason for clogged ears.

How to use it?

To use peppermint oil as a remedy for airplane ear pressure, mix 4 to 5 drops of the oil with a carrier oil such as olive oil or jojoba oil and simply rub it on the outside of your ear.

3. Rosemary and Eucalyptus Oil

Rosemary oil is known to reduce inflammation and pain, while eucalyptus oil is reputed for its antibacterial, decongestant, and antiseptic properties.

How to use it?

Mix two drops of rosemary oil with two drops of eucalyptus oil and rub behind the ears. This will help to relieve inflammation and pain. Repeat as often as required.

[Read: Essential Oils for Ear Pain]

CURE 3: Herbs

1. Elderberry


Elderberry is a potent antiviral. This herb helps to prevent and ease symptoms of cold and flu, which are often the primary culprits for ear blockages.

How to use it?

You can either take an elderberry supplement as per the directions on the label or make your own elderberry syrup at home. Have one tablespoon of the syrup every day until your symptoms disappear.

2. Verbena

Verbena is a folk remedy that is used to treat respiratory tract diseases and inflamed and swollen sinuses. It has numerous beneficial phytochemicals, such as ursolic acid, beta-sitosterol, and oleanolic acid.

How to use it?

To treat airplane ear pain with verbena, you can use it as a gargle. Take a glass of lukewarm water and add a pinch of verbena to it. Gargle this herb-infused solution 2-3 times a day to relieve symptoms of congestion.

[Read: Home Remedies for Ear Pain]

3. Oregon Grape Root

Oregon Grape Root has a powerful compound called ‘Berberine’. This naturally occurring compound can effectively fight off bacterial infections and inflammation.

How to use it?

This herb can be taken as a tea. For this, boil 2 cups of water and add in about 15 grams of Oregon grape root. Let this boil for 15 minutes after which you can strain and drink. No more than 3 cups of this tea should be ingested daily.

4. Ginger


Ginger contains ‘gingerol’ which is a powerhouse of natural anti-inflammatory properties.

How to use it?

Shred some fresh ginger (about 1 teaspoon) and heat it in a pan along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Strain this mixture and apply it around the outer ear canal of the affected ear. Repeat as required.

5. Goldenseal

This dried herb is effective in treating earaches and ringing in the ears. It contains berberine which is a potent antioxidant.

How to use it?

Goldenseal can be taken in the form of capsules. Take 2 capsules around mealtime in the morning and evening for no more than 10 days.

CURE 4: Foods

Diet and health are often closely related to the ear health of a person and how well he/she tolerates decreased air pressure. Here are some foods that you must include in your diet to boost your immune system and protect and improve your hearing health:

1. Potassium-Rich Foods

Potassium helps in regulating the fluid in the inner ear. This is important as the fluid is the part of the ear that works to translate noises into electrical impulses which the brain interprets as sound. Include foods such as lima beans, bananas, spinach, potatoes, apricots, raisins, melon, orange, and yogurt in your diet.

How much to take?

You need a daily intake of 3,500-4,700mg of potassium from foods.

2. Foods Rich in Folic Acid

folic acid menu

Folic acid helps to generate new cell growth and increase circulation, which is important for keeping the hair cells in the inner ear healthy. Folate-rich foods include spinach, asparagus, broccoli, liver, and fortified breakfast cereal.

How much to take?

400 micrograms are the daily recommended amount of folate for adults.

CURE 5: Supplements for Ear Health

1. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is helpful in treating airplane ear as it wards off harmful infections and protects hair cells in the cochlea.

How much to take?

The recommended intake is 1000mg a day.

2. Vitamin E

Vitamin E helps to improve blood circulation, which is optimum for ear health.

How much to take?

The recommended amount of Vitamin E for adults is 15 milligrams a day.

3. Bromelain

Bromelain Benefits

Bromelain has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can treat sinus, nasal swelling, and ear infections.

How much to take?

There are different dosing recommendations for bromelain. The German Commission E, however, recommends taking 80-320 milligrams, two to three times a day.

4. Magnesium and Zinc

Magnesium shields the inner ear against loud noises and is essential for nerve health and hearing. Foods rich in magnesium include bananas, spinach, artichokes, potatoes, and broccoli.

How much to take?

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements-NIH(2), healthy adult men need about 400 to 420 milligrams (mg) of magnesium daily while healthy adult women need 310 to 320 mg

5. Zinc


Zinc is known to increase cell growth and ward off ear infections. Zinc-rich foods to include in your diet are almonds, cashews, peanuts, beef, pork, dark chocolate, oysters, lentils, and split peas.

How much to take?

The recommended intake of zinc is 8 milligrams a day for women and 11 milligrams a day for men

Bottom Line

These natural remedies for airplane ear pressure tend to have little or no side effects. However, when using supplements or herbs along with other prescribed medicines, it would always be advisable to check with your doctor first as they can interact.


1. Who Is Considered Highly Susceptible to Airplane Ear?

Anyone can get airplane ear pain. People with a cold, sinus infection or other nasal allergies are, however, at an increased risk of experiencing clogged ears. Babies and children are especially vulnerable as their Eustachian tubes are narrower than in adults.

2. Are There Any Long-Term Complications Due to Airplane Ear?

An airplane ear typically doesn’t cause any serious problems and responds well to self-treatment. In rare cases, however, there may be damage to the middle ear or inner ear structures, or the symptoms could be prolonged and persistent, resulting in permanent hearing loss or chronic tinnitus.

 3. What Can Be Done to Prevent Airplane Ear Pain?

Airplane ear pain can be prevented or minimized by doing the following:

  1. Staying awake during the ascent and descent of the plane.
  2. Using earplugs.

Drinking plenty of water or fluids.

  1. Removing any excess wax from the ears.
  2. Keeping your nasal passage moist.
  3. Avoiding the use of cotton swabs and candling to clean ears.
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