Hearing Loss

Can Plane Travel Worsen Tinnitus Symptoms?

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If you’ve ever experienced buzzing, hissing or ringing in your ears, you are likely experiencing symptoms of tinnitus. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that more than 25 million Americans experience this condition.

If you have tinnitus, traveling on a plane can be an uncomfortable experience. Many travelers are able to sit back and relax on flights, but tinnitus can make this very difficult. But can traveling by plane worsen tinnitus?

How Does Flying Affect Your Ears?

Changes in air pressure and air travel go hand in hand. Changing air pressure can stress your middle ear and eardrum, and sometimes result in a condition known as airplane ear. Symptoms of airplane ear typically include a feeling of fullness, discomfort or muffling of sounds. Only one ear or both ears can be affected, and the condition generally only lasts for a short time. If you continue to experience symptoms of airplane ear for more than a few hours after flying, we would suggest speaking to a hearing care professional.

Tinnitus And Flying

You probably already know that airplanes are loud. The average sound on a craft can range between 85 dB and 105 dB! When you factor in the air pressure forcing your ears to adjust to the high altitude, it’s little wonder that your ears may be uncomfortable. If you have tinnitus, you may experience exacerbated symptoms during flights.

Sound-Exacerbated Tinnitus

Whether or not noise will impact your tinnitus symptoms depends on the type of tinnitus you suffer from. Most tinnitus sufferers have what is known as high-frequency tinnitus. As the name would suggest, exposure to high-frequency sounds worsens the symptoms of tinnitus. As the frequency range of a typical jet engine is mid-frequency, the noise of an airplane is unlikely to worsen the symptoms for high-frequency tinnitus sufferers. However for those who have tinnitus that is exacerbated by mid-frequency noise or loud sounds, air travel can be uncomfortable.

Altitude-Exacerbated Tinnitus

Most air travelers are familiar with the experience of ears popping during the ascent and descent of an airplane. If you suffer from tinnitus, this natural popping of the ears can be a problem. The reason that your ears pop is actually your eustachian tube working as it is designed to. To equalize the pressure inside your middle ear, your eustachian tube releases a bubble of air.

If your eustachian tube is unable to equalize the pressure, the thin membrane of your eardrum is stretched unnaturally because of the vacuum that has been created inside your inner ear. This can distort sounds, and may sometimes be painful. The stretching of this membrane can also worsen symptoms of tinnitus.

How Can I Prevent Airplane Tinnitus?

The first step to preventing airplane tinnitus is understanding if you need hearing protection against altitude related tinnitus, sound related tinnitus, or both. Our team at Hearing Help Associates would be happy to discuss your tinnitus and advise on the most appropriate hearing protection. Other things you can try are:

We don’t want your tinnitus symptoms to prevent you from flying. If you want to learn more about how we can help provide relief from the symptoms of tinnitus, get in touch today. Please contact us to schedule an appointment  with one of our hearing professionals today. We have 6 convenient audiology clinic locations for you in Long Island, NY: Babylon, Bayside, Bellmore, Great Neck, Jericho, and Rockville Centre.

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