When your ears pop, it can be either a huge relief or something that hurts a bit, depending on what causes it. When you fly or dive deep underwater, the rapid air pressure changes cause significant discomfort or pain in your ears, which goes away when your ears pop, providing relief (via Time). When the pressure isn’t equal, the eardrum may bulge either inward or outward.
However, when you don’t have specific situations like flying or diving, it might feel strange when it happens, making you wonder what’s going on. Good news: usually, your ears popping doesn’t mean anything is wrong. Typically, the pressure on either side of your eardrums remains the same. The Eustachian tube allows air to flow through it in instances where the air pressure is unequal. “Popping your ears is generally safe. It usually requires little more than moving your mouth muscles,” Healthline reported. When your ears pop, it usually means the Eustachian tube functions correctly to regulate the pressure on each side of the eardrum.
Usually, you may take your ears popping for granted because it typically happens a lot. Still, when it malfunctions or the fullness doesn’t go away even when they pop, the resulting pressure and pain can be frustrating.
What does it mean when your ears won't pop?
Whenever you yawn, blow your nose, or swallow, the narrow, membrane-lined tube automatically opens (via Healthline). The small pop or click you hear is the air moving into the middle ear. When that fails to happen, you feel a sense of fullness, which can be uncomfortable, and sounds may be muffled. Even under normal circumstances, you might hear a slight pop or click as the Eustachian tube allows the pressure on each side of the eardrum to equalize. This likely happens multiple times every day.
When the Eustachian tube doesn’t easily open, there could be an obstruction, like fluid, earwax, or mucus. The pressure can build up, causing discomfort.
“The mucus from a cold or ear infection can block the Eustachian tube, making it hard to equalize your ears properly. This can make your ears ache from even small changes in altitude, and the eardrum is pushed inwards (on descent) or outwards (on ascent),” wrote Chris Brennan-Jones, NHMRC Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia (via The Conversation).
If you need to make your ears pop, it’s essential to be gentle. You can try yawning, chewing gum, swallowing, or sucking on hard candy. If none of those do the trick, try holding your nose and breathing out, which is called the Valsalva maneuver. An over-the-counter decongestant might also help reduce fluid in your ear. If you aren’t able to get relief, you may need to contact your doctor.
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