Pop, Goes the Middle Ear!
The season of summer travel has officially wound down and the season of holiday travel is starting to ramp up. After booking the perfect flight, making sure your bag weighs exactly 49.9 pounds, fighting your way through security lines, getting the perfect aisle seat, plopping your arm on the armrest so 16B knows you aren’t compromising on that territory, and fastening your seat belt firmly across your lap, you realize you forgot gum to help pop your ears. You huff and puff and think to yourself, “Why the heck does this even happen?”
Well to begin, we have to know a little about the anatomy of your ear. There are three main parts of the ear, the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.
The outer ear is the part of the ear that is visible to us and what we decorate with piercings and tattoos. The middle ear is mainly a cute little air pocket that includes your ear drum. The Eustachian tube, which we will talk about a little later, is part of your inner ear. The inner ear is responsible for transmitting that lovely sound of the baby crying in 20C to your brain. When you swallow, yawn, or breath out hard, your Eustachian tube opens up to clear out the middle ear and replace the air inside.
Back leaving on a jet plane. Let’s imagine your ear is a little apartment for air people. Krista and Ramona live in the middle ear and Esteban and Kamal live in the outer ear.
Both decide to have house warming parties to show off their apartments to their air people friends. Both the girls in the middle ear and the boys in the outer ear invite two people over. Everything is fine because both parties are even.
You board in the airplane, and the boys' guests, Stevie and Christina, leave because they are against traveling by fossil fuels. But inside the middle ear, Krista’s boyfriend Stuart gets super excited about flying and starts causing a ruckus. His friend PJ is there too and you can just tell by his backwards hat that he loves to be obnoxious and loud.
Because there is more pressure on the ear drum from the air people rager in the middle ear, Esteban and Kamal get annoyed and tell the landlord/brain, “Hey, shut that party down.” Your brain opens your Eustachian tube and out go Stuart and PJ and the pressure is equalized. These boys just don’t go quietly, though. As the cops are pushing them out quickly, a little “pop” is released, the door and Eustachian tube are shut, and everything is back to normal. The same process goes in reverse when you are scuba diving and Krista and Ramona have to break up Esteban and Kamal’s pool party.
So next time you hop on the plane at LAX and your ears need a good pop, you can chew, yawn, or blow your nose gently to help relieve some pressure. Just don’t blow too hard or you may damage your ear drum!
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