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Ear Pain After A Flight – Otitis media with effusion

Left otitis

Dr Dennis Chua is widely regarded as one of the best ENT specialists and sees many patients with ear conditions.

One common condition would be ear ache or pain after a flight. This usually occurs during ascent or descent and can sometimes be very severe. Patients may also have decreased hearing and this can be quite uncomfortable. In the worst case scenario, it can lead to a burst ear drum with ear discharge and hearing loss.

There is a “tube” connecting the ear and the nose known as the Eustachian Tube. Normally when there is mucus at the back of the nose or inflammation in the nose and sinuses blocking this tube, it can lead to difficulty in “equalising” the pressure between the ear and the nose and one can end up with fluid in the middle ear – also known as otitis media with effusion. In situations like this, treatment is directed at the nose rather than the ears. Ear drops will not help the situation. Instead, a short course of antibiotics combined with nasal decongestants and nasal sprays can help. It will take a while for the situation to improve and it may be necessary for patient to avoid air travel during this period of time. Prognosis is usually good and most patients recover well without any surgery needed. Find out more about Otitis Media with Effusion here.

Left otitis

Endoscopic picture of the left ear showing an orange colored fluid in the middle ear (behind the ear drum)

Right ear normal

Endoscopic picture of the right ear showing a greyish translucent appearance of a normal ear.

If you experience pain in your ear after a flight, consider visiting Dr. Dennis Chua.

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