Health/Life, Parenting/Children

How to get your ears to pop: steps for adults, children and babies

How to get your ears to pop: steps for adults, children and babies

This guide outlines how to get your ears to pop, and how to safely do it for babies and young children as well.

You may need to pop your ears sometimes to equalize the pressure between the middle ear and the outside environment. The middle ear is an air-filled space behind the eardrum, and its pressure needs to be similar to the surrounding air pressure for your ears to function properly.

Why you need to get your ears to pop

Here are some common situations that can cause a pressure imbalance and necessitate ear popping.

Altitude Changes

When you ascend or descend in an airplane, drive through mountains, or ride in an elevator, the air pressure around you changes rapidly. Popping your ears helps adjust the pressure in your middle ear to match the external pressure.

Scuba Diving

As you dive underwater, the pressure increases with depth. Equalizing ear pressure is vital for preventing barotrauma, which can damage your eardrums.

Colds and Sinus Congestion

Congestion in your nasal passages can affect the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of your throat. This congestion can lead to ear pressure imbalances.

Loud Noises

Exposure to loud sounds can temporarily affect ear pressure. Yawning or swallowing can help restore equilibrium.

Changes in Elevation

Climbing high mountains or hiking to elevated areas can result in pressure changes that require ear popping.

Failure to equalize ear pressure in these situations can lead to discomfort, pain, or even ear injuries. Therefore, it’s important to know how to safely pop your ears to prevent these issues.

How to get your ears to pop – safely!

If you need to pop your ears due to pressure changes, like when flying or during changes in altitude, here are some safe methods.


Yawning or swallowing can help equalize the pressure in your ears.

Chewing Gum or Candy

Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can stimulate swallowing and help with ear popping.

Valsalva Maneuver

Pinch your nostrils closed and gently blow air out through your nose. This can help equalize ear pressure. Do the Valsalva Maneuver gently to avoid ear damage.

Toynbee Maneuver

Pinch your nostrils closed and swallow. The Toynbee Maneuver can also help equalize ear pressure.


Yawning intentionally can help pop your ears if they feel blocked.


Over-the-counter decongestants may help if the ear blockage is due to congestion. Follow the instructions and consult a healthcare professional if needed.

How to pop babies and children’s ears when flying

Relieving ear pressure in children and babies during flights can be challenging because they might not understand how to equalize pressure themselves. Here are some tips to help them:

1. Feeding or Nursing

For babies, breastfeeding or bottle-feeding during takeoff and landing can help them swallow, which in turn can help equalize ear pressure.

2. Sippy Cup or Pacifier

If your child is beyond the breastfeeding or bottle-feeding stage, giving them a sippy cup or a pacifier to suck on can encourage swallowing.

3. Gentle Swallowing

For older children who can understand, encourage them to swallow gently by sipping water or a non-sparkling beverage.

4. Yawning

If your child is old enough, you can try to induce yawning by showing them pictures of yawning animals or making yawning sounds together.

5. Chewing Gum

For older children who can safely chew gum, this can also stimulate swallowing and help equalize ear pressure.

6. Earplugs with Filters

Some parents use specialized earplugs with filters designed for children during flights. These can help equalize pressure and reduce discomfort.

7. Keep Them Awake

If possible, try to keep your child awake during takeoff and landing, as they tend to swallow more frequently when they are awake.

8. Use a Child-Appropriate Decongestant

Consult with your child’s pediatrician before using any medication, but in some cases, a child-appropriate decongestant may be recommended to reduce congestion and ease ear pressure.

Always consult with a healthcare professional, especially for babies and very young children, to ensure you’re using safe methods to alleviate ear pressure during flights. Additionally, be patient and understanding, as some children may still experience discomfort despite your efforts.

What happens if you relieve ear pressure?

If you don’t pop your ears to relieve pressure, especially in situations where there are rapid changes in pressure (like when flying or scuba diving), it can lead to several uncomfortable or potentially harmful consequences:

Ear Discomfort

The most common symptom is discomfort or a “full” feeling in the ears. It can be similar to the sensation you might experience during changes in altitude.

Ear Pain

As the pressure difference persists, it can lead to ear pain, which can range from mild to severe.

Eardrum Damage

Prolonged pressure imbalances, particularly when descending in an airplane or diving, can cause barotrauma. This is when the pressure difference between the middle ear and the outside environment damages the eardrum or the delicate structures within the ear.

Hearing Loss

Severe or repeated barotrauma (pressure trauma) can lead to hearing loss, which may be temporary or permanent, depending on the extent of the damage.

Ear Infections

If the Eustachian tubes (which equalize ear pressure) become blocked or don’t function correctly due to pressure imbalances, it can increase the risk of ear infections.

Dizziness and Vertigo

Pressure imbalances can affect your sense of balance and lead to dizziness or vertigo, especially when diving or ascending/descending rapidly.

Final words

Remember, if you’re experiencing persistent ear problems, pain, or discomfort, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and advice. Avoid using sharp objects or excessive force to try and pop your ears, as this can lead to injury.

Photo by Helena Lopes