Ear popping in winters: Causes, tips to relieve it, prevention, treatment options

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Jan 11, 2023 11:06 AM IST

Popping ears is one of the most frequent ear disorders in the winter. Here are its causes, tips to relieve popping ears, prevention tips and treatment options

The arrival of the winter months can put a strain on your ears and affect hearing due to the reduction in temperature. Popping ears is one of the most frequent ear disorders in the winter which is caused by pressure or air pocket between the outer and middle ear as the ear cavity tries to equalise the pressure on the other side of the eardrum.

Ear popping in winters: Causes, tips to relieve it, prevention, treatment options (Photo by Mark Paton on Unsplash)
Ear popping in winters: Causes, tips to relieve it, prevention, treatment options (Photo by Mark Paton on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Yogesh Patil (ENT) at Patil ENT Clinic in Pune, explained, “The Eustachian tube, which connects your nose to your middle ear, is intended to equalise any pressure in your ears. This is where the pressure in your ear ends up. Every time you yawn, swallow or blow your nose this tube opens up to equalise pressure in the ears.”

Talking about why ears pop, he said, "Your Eustachian tube may not always be able to adjust quickly enough to carry out its function, such as when travelling by plane or when the weather changes suddenly. The pressure in your ears may also be impacted by the change from the chilly air outside to the warmth indoors. In these circumstances, you can really feel the pressure and air pocket pressing against your eardrum and experience discomfort or pain. The pressure inside and outside of your ear is balanced out via the Eustachian tube. You'll frequently hear a little "pop" as the pressure is balanced."

Adding to the causes, he said, “Ear popping can also be caused by Eustachian tube dysfunction. Typically, the Eustachian tubes are closed. They open when you do things like chew, yawn or swallow. Eustachian tube dysfunction happens when the Eustachian tubes don’t open or close properly. This can lead to a crackling or popping sound in your ear.”

To relieve popping ears, Dr Yogesh Patil suggested that you can pop your ears or clear your Eustachian tubes by:

  • Yawning
  • Sniffing
  • Swallowing
  • Chewing gum
  • Sucking a sweet
  • Gargling salty water
  • Having a hot bath or shower
  • Using a decongestant nasal spray

Recommending prevention tips, he said the following tips could assist in avoiding issues that could result in ear popping:

  • Make an effort to avoid respiratory illnesses. Diseases like the flu and the common cold frequently cause Eustachian tube dysfunction. Wash your hands frequently, refrain from sharing personal objects, and keep away from others who might be ill if you want to stay healthy.
  • Never wipe your ears with cotton swabs. Earwax may go farther into your ear canal as a result.
  • Keep environmental irritants at bay. Pollution, second-hand smoke and allergens could all be factors in Eustachian tube dysfunction.
  • Avoid loud noises. Exposure to loud noises can harm your ears and make disorders like tinnitus worse.

Talking about whether ear popping dangerous and when to seek medical help, he said, “Ear popping is typically quite common, especially in the winter. Having said that, it is crucial to keep in mind that you should seek medical attention right away if your ears feel blocked, hurt, leak fluid, show any signs of blood coming from your ears or if you lose your hearing.”

According to him, the treatment options include:

  • Use of antibiotics to treat the infection
  • Earwax removal by a specialist if earwax is the cause behind the blockage
  • Placement of ear tubes in the eardrums to help equalize pressure in the middle ear and to assist with the drainage of fluid
  • Prescription medications such as tricyclic antidepressants or muscle relaxants for relief from pain
  • Balloon dilation of the Eustachian tube
  • Surgery when more conservative methods aren’t working to relieve the symptoms

Generally speaking, if your symptoms are severe or persist for longer than two weeks, you should seek expert assistance. If you are worried about changes to your hearing, it is always important to have your hearing evaluated.

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