DISCLAIMER: Before I begin, let me say I am not a medical practitioner or an aviation expert. All advice and recommendations given in this post are from my own personal experiences, and those of my partner who also suffers from this condition. Even though I am recommending one product in this post, it is from personal experience not any affiliation with the brand.
It’s that time of year, schools are starting to break up for the Summer break, and many people will be excited at the thought of flying off for a relaxing holiday abroad. There will also be some people who will have their holiday booked but who will be absolutely dreading the flights. Some people might even decide not to fly because they can’t bear the pain they get in their ears and head, and nothing seems to work to prevent it.
I had never been in an aeroplane until I was in my 30s. A friend of mine owns a successful diving centre in Mexico and I decided to go and visit him for my very first holiday abroad. People told me my ears might pop as the plane ascends and again when it descends, and had told me to chew some gum or suck some boiled sweets to ease any discomfort. Surprisingly though, I had no discomfort at all on that flight, either going or coming back.
My next holiday abroad was to beautiful Malta. I was so looking forward to it. I settled into my seat on the plane, my son next to me, and my partner next to him. Everything was fine. My ears popped a bit as we ascended but that was OK. A few hours later the pilot announced we were going to be descending shortly, and that was where my nightmare began. My ears popped and then the pain started. Pain like I had never felt before. And it just kept on building up, stronger and stronger. It is hard to explain how bad it was, but I honestly thought I was dying. It felt like immense pressure building up, first in my ears and then spreading across my face and head. The pain was explosive. I looked around at the other passengers. Everyone was laughing, chatting, just the normal stuff. I looked at my partner. He had a funny look on his face but I thought he was fine. My son was chatting away but I could barely hear him. The pain took over everything. I’ll be honest, I was scared. Why was no one else feeling it? I had no idea what this was. I had never heard of anyone getting pain like this before. And all the time the pressure and pain were just building and building. I wondered if I should inform the cabin crew that in a few moments everyone was going to be covered in my brain matter. I literally felt like my head was about to explode. I genuinely didn’t think I was getting off that plane alive.
After what seemed like an eternity, the plane landed. I felt huge relief that I had survived the descent. If you have never experienced this condition, you will think I’m grossly exaggerating how severe the pain was, but I’m really not. I felt ill getting off the plane, like I was going to pass out. For most people with this condition, the pain eases or goes completely when the door is opened. This isn’t the case for me. My hearing was muffled, my eyes kept wanting to close, and my head and ears were agony. When we arrived at our hotel I went straight to bed. My son and partner went out to get something to eat, and they brought some food back to the hotel for me, but I was in no state to eat. I fell asleep clutching my head.
The next day I still didn’t feel well but didn’t want to ruin any more holiday time. We had an island to explore. As the day went on the pain subsided, and we had an absolutely fantastic 2 weeks. Talking to my partner before the flight home, I told him about that pain and he confessed that he had it too, but as no one else seemed to be struggling on the plane, he felt too silly to tell me. His pain went when the door had opened, unlike mine. He had flown a lot more than I had, and he said he had experienced it on most flights. We were both feeling anxious about the flight home, for fear of the pain coming back. I told myself it was a one off. I had been fine going to Mexico, I would be fine on this flight too. If only! As the plane started to descend over England I could feel that dreaded pressure building again. It was exactly like the flight there. Intense explosive pain all over again. My partner had it too. But again, his went when we landed and they opened the door. Mine stayed for 2 full days this time.
This experience actually put me off flying. I decided the only way to guarantee I’d never get that pain again would be if I never went on an aeroplane. My partner went on a few holidays with family and friends but I refused. He had the pain every single time, but as before, his always went when the door opened. He has tried every technique that Google recommmends, and every decongestant spray. Nothing worked.
A few years ago though he begged me to go to Disney World in Orlando. I could see the excitement on my son’s face, so agreed. A few weeks before we went, my partner (who is a gas engineer) had a job to do at a nurse’s house. They were chatting about holidays and he told her about the pain we both get on flights. We had spoken to people about it after Malta, but no one had a clue what we were talking about. They thought we just meant that our ears popped. This nurse knew exactly what he meant though as she had suffered with it too. That was until a pilot had told her about a fantastic little solution. She told my partner what to buy, but I was still sceptical.
Let me introduce you to EarPlanes. The most amazing little invention ever. Well, they are if you suffer with the ear pain anyway. I don’t work with the company, I don’t get any commission if you buy them, I am genuinely just trying to help people who experience the pain. Holidays should be fun and exciting, not overshadowed by agony. We had never heard of them and if my partner hadn’t chatted to that nurse, we still wouldn’t have. I’m guessing there will be a lot of people reading this who haven’t either, so I really hope this helps you.
EarPlanes are hypoallergenic latex-free silicone ear plugs that you fit into your ear an hour before landing and remove when the plane has landed and the door has opened. If you suffer with ear pain when the plane ascends too, you can put them in just before take off, and then remove them when the plane reaches maximum altitude. They form an airtight seal in your ear canal and have a special filter in them that regulates the pressure in your ear, reducing or completely preventing any discomfort.
You can also buy them for children or people with smaller ears, but obviously you would need to help a child insert them to make sure they fit properly.
You can also buy re-usable ones, which can be used for up to 10 flights.
When we flew to Orlando, my partner put his EarPlanes in an hour before we landed and had no pain whatsoever. Stupidly, I didn’t use my pair. My son was chatting away excitedly and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hear him if I had them in. Plus I figured that as it was a similar flight to going to Mexico, I would be OK this time. Big mistake. If anything, the pain this time was even worse than I had experienced with Malta! Sheer agony. I couldn’t talk to my son anyway due to how much pain I was in, so I was cross with myself that I hadn’t worn my EarPlanes, especially seeing my partner looking happy and relaxed and pain-free. And just like in Malta, I had to go straight to bed in the hotel while my son and partner went off exploring the area.
I had learnt my lesson for the flight home, and put the EarPlanes in when the pilot announced we would be starting to descend shortly. My partner had already put his in but I waited as long as possible before using mine. The plane started to descend and I waited with baited breath for the pain to start. What a difference! No pain whatsoever! I was surprised to discover that they don’t completely block out sounds as I thought they would, so I could still have a conversation with my son too. A completely pain-free conversation. It was like a miracle for me.
EarPlanes have been a game-changer for us. Pain-free flights, more time being able to enjoy the holiday. I have recommended them to a couple of people recently, which is what made me decide to write this post. If you talk to your GP about that pain, most will have no idea what it feels like and will just recommend a decongestant. That might help some people a little bit, but didn’t work for us. Not many people seem to know about these genius little ear plugs, but that needs to change. People suffer in agonising silence and not many people understand how extreme the pain is. You might have read this and not had any idea that some people go through this on flights, but if anyone you know ever mentions it to you, please recommend they try EarPlanes.
You can buy them on Amazon or at Boots, and I really think they should sell them on aeroplanes too, but unfortunately they don’t.
Read the reviews on Amazon if you are unsure about them. So many people being able to enjoy flights for the first time. I’d love to know if they work for you too.
Have a great holiday! Pain-free 🙂