Plugging your nose and blowing forcefully is a common technique to equalize pressure in the ears, particularly during activities like flying, scuba diving, or traveling through high-altitude areas.
Although this method offers temporary relief, it is crucial to understand that there are potential risks associated with this practice. This article will explore why plugging your nose and blowing might be considered detrimental to your health and well-being.
I blew my nose and my ear popped Now it hurts, why?
To grasp the potential risks involved, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of how the ear functions concerning pressure changes. The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the throat.
The eustachian tube maintains equal pressure on both sides of the eardrum. When the pressure outside the ear changes rapidly, such as during takeoff or descent in an airplane, it can lead to discomfort or pain in the ears.
What is the Purpose of Plugging Your Nose and Blowing?
The primary purpose is to equalize the pressure between the middle ear and the external environment, preventing discomfort and potential damage to the eardrums. This technique is often used during activities involving significant altitude or pressure changes.
Risks of Plugging Your Nose and Blowing
Plugging your nose and blowing gently is generally safe and commonly done to equalize pressure in the ears during activities like flying or scuba diving. However, excessive force or blowing too hard can lead to complications. This may lead to pain, hearing loss, dizziness, or a ruptured eardrum.
- Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
Plugging your nose and forcefully blowing can significantly increase pressure within the Eustachian tube, potentially leading to Eustachian tube dysfunction. This dysfunction can give rise to a range of problems, including muffled hearing, ear pain, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and even dizziness or vertigo.
- Single Nostril Technique
- Begin by placing a clean finger against one nostril, and applying gentle pressure to close it off.
- Take a slow and gentle breath through your open nostril.
- While maintaining a controlled exhalation, blow softly through the unobstructed nostril, directing the airflow into the tissue.
- Ensure the blowing force is gentle to avoid any potential damage.
- Repeat the process for the other nostril, closing off the opposite side with your finger.
- Take another slow and gentle breath before exhaling softly through the unobstructed nostril into the tissue.
Barotrauma is the physical damage caused by the unequal pressure between the inner and outer ear. Forcefully blowing air while the nose is plugged can significantly increase the risk of barotrauma.
The excess pressure can result in injury to the eardrum, such as a perforation or rupture, which may require medical intervention to repair. Additionally, barotrauma can cause discomfort, pain, and potential long-term complications if not addressed promptly.
- Sinus Problems
In addition to affecting the ears, forcefully blowing while the nose is plugged can also impact the sinuses. The increased pressure can lead to sinus congestion, pain, and potential damage to the delicate sinus tissues.
This can result in sinus infections, inflammation, and other sinus-related complications. It is important to note that sinus issues can further exacerbate ear discomfort and affect overall respiratory health.
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Issues
The forceful blowing technique builds up pressure in the mouth and throat, which can strain the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Repeated or excessive use of this technique may aggravate existing TMJ issues, leading to jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds, and difficulty in jaw movement.
TMJ problems can impact various daily activities such as eating, speaking, and even sleeping, highlighting the importance of avoiding practices that can exacerbate this condition.
Alternatives for Ear Pressure Relief
Instead of resorting to potentially harmful techniques, it is advisable to consider safer alternatives to relieve ear pressure during activities that involve rapid altitude or pressure changes. These alternatives include
- Yawning and Swallowing
These natural actions help to open the Eustachian tubes and equalize the pressure more gradually and gently.
- Jaw Movements
Moving your jaw up and down or side to side can aid in relieving ear pressure. Chewing gum or sucking on candy can also promote jaw movement and facilitate equalization.
- Nasal Sprays
Over-the-counter nasal sprays can help reduce nasal congestion, allowing for better pressure equalization. Consult a healthcare professional for appropriate guidance on using nasal sprays.
- Earplugs or Pressure-Regulating Earphones
These specially designed devices can assist in regulating pressure changes during flights or scuba diving. They can provide a gradual adjustment of pressure and help minimize ear discomfort.
While plugging your nose and blowing might provide temporary relief, it is crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with this practice. Eustachian tube dysfunction, barotrauma, sinus problems, and TMJ issues are possible complications that can arise from forcefully blowing while the nose is plugged.
It is highly recommended to use alternative methods for equalizing ear pressure to ensure your safety and well-being during pressure changes. If you experience persistent ear pain or discomfort, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate advice and treatment tailored to your specific condition.