How Can Air Travel Cause Problems?
Air travel is sometimes associated with rapid changes in air pressure. To maintain comfort, the Eustachian tube must function properly, that is, open frequently and widely enough to equalize the changes in air pressure. This is especially true when the airplane is coming down for a landing, going from low atmospheric pressure down closer to earth where the air pressure is higher. In the early days of airplanes with open cabins and cockpits, this was a major problem to flyers. Today’s aircraft are pressurized so that air pressure changes are minimized. Even so, some changes in pressure are unavoidable, even in the best and most modern airplanes. Actually, any situation in which rapid altitude or pressure changes occur creates the problem. You may have experienced it when riding in elevators of tall buildings or when diving to the bottom of a swimming pool. Deep sea divers are taught how to equalize their ear pressures; so are pilots.
Inserting ear tubes, or performing a myringotomy with tubes, are an operation in which a small cut is made in the ear drum to relieve pressure caused by pus or fluid in the middle ear. A small tube may then be placed in the cut to allow fluid to drain from the ear and air to pass inside. The tube usually falls out on its own in about a year and the cut heals. While myringotomy is done on both adults and children, it is done most often on children. In fact, it is the most common operation done on children. Myringotomy is generally done to treat ear infections that have not responded well to other treatments, hearing loss due to fluid build-up, and in children, delayed speech development caused by the hearing loss. The benefits of having a myringotomy include less frequent ear infections, hearing improvement, and improvement of speech in adults, as well as children.