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Is it safe to fly with a perforated eardrum?

Posted by Be Well

Is it safe to fly with a perforated eardrum?
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Your eardrum is a small, circular membrane covered in a thick layer of skin, and it is located between the outer and middle ear. A perforated eardrum is a hole, or tear, in your eardrum.

Flying with a perforated eardrum should actually cause you less discomfort than if your eardrum is intact. When you have a perforation (hole) in your eardrum, the air pressure in your middle ear and in the surrounding air should be able to balance out more easily. This is because the air can pass through the hole.

When your eardrum is intact, air can only pass into or out of your middle ear through the eustachian tube which connects the middle ear to the back of your nose and throat. The eustachian tube is closed most of the time and usually only opens when you yawn or swallow.

When a plane takes off, the pressure inside the plane drops. The air in your middle ear is then at a higher pressure. This does not usually cause a problem (whether your eardrum is perforated or not) because the air gets blown down the eustachian tube by force and the pressure evens out.

However, when a plane lands, the pressure of the air in your middle ear is lower than in the plane, and the eustachian tube can become blocked. The low pressure in the middle ear can then cause the eardrum to press inwards, which can cause discomfort and temporary hearing loss. This normally returns to normal on its own after a short while.

However, if you have a perforation (hole) in your eardrum, the air should move into and out of the middle ear more freely because it does not need to rely on the eustachian tube to let air pass in and out. Therefore, you should not experience as much discomfort.

If you have a perforated eardrum, you should keep your ear dry in order to avoid infection. Don't go swimming or diving, and be careful in the shower.

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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