Hearing Services, Hearing Aids & Ear Wax Removal Glasgow
0141 954 6030

Healthy ears and flying

Not much summer so far this year in Glasgow so many of us will jet off to sunnier climes – if we have not done so already.

At this time I get asked a lot of questions about ears, hearing aids, earwax and flying so I thought a short Q & A might be useful.


Q. Can I use my hearing aid while flying?

A. The short answer is yes. On probing further I have found that people have three main concerns:

1. That the hearing aids will set off the alarm when they go through security. Please rest assured that they will not, although the metal in any remote control device may set things off if it is in your pocket, so treat it as you would a mobile phone by putting it in the plastic tray.

2. That the hearing aids may interfere with the flight control system – the autopilot. Again the short answer is no with the rider that if your hearing aids are controlled by a smartphone this should be in flight safe mode at the appropriate times.

3. Will wearing the hearing aids hurt my  ears.  Again , no, but you should be aware of pressure equalisation problems on ascent and descent if you are wearing an unvented earpiece. Thankfully this is rarer than ever these days thanks to the ability of the modern aid to control feedback.

So, a qualified yes with a few common sense precautions.

Q. Why do my ears hurt when I fly?

A. Barotrauma, which is an inability of your ears to maintain equal pressure in the outer and middle ear. For the eardrum to work properly there needs to be equal air pressure in the outer ear canal and the middle ear cavity. The outer ear is open to the atmosphere and if it is clear the supply of air to it is plentiful and it is constantly aerated. The middle ear is a cavity and the air supply is not so immediately available. Human anatomy has the solution in the form of the Eustachian tube which connects the otherwise fully enclosed middle ear cavity to the throat and the back of the nose. So the middle ear receives air from the back of the throat and the nose when we swallow.

This balance can be upset when we fly. On take off and climbing the pressure in the outer ear will drop as the atmospheric pressure does the same thing. The resulting higher pressure in the middle ear will cause the drum to bulge outward. The converse happens on descent and landing. Usually this will not cause pain but you will help things if you work your Eustachian tubes harder than usual by regular swallowing, sucking sweets or chewing gum.

Pain may result if your Eustachian tube function is adversely effected due to a cold or upper respiratory tract infection, or and this is less likely, if your ear canal is fully blocked with wax. So if you have a head cold or a throat condition and you fly it is more likely that you will experience pain and perhaps temporary hearing loss. The good news is that there are likely to be temporary conditions and should disappear after the first few days of your holiday.

Q. What should I do before going on holiday

A. Have your ears checked for wax build up, it is always better to fly with clear ear canals. It is also better to swim with clear ear canals and to protect them by using swim moulds. Take plenty of water to keep hydrated and suck boiled sweets on take off and landing to help relieve any pressure buildup.

Make sure you have enough hearing aid batteries and wax filters. Have a great time and come and see us when you get back if you need to.

If you have any questions, or you would like to find out about your hearing, please call us on 0141 954 6030 or book an appointment online now!

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