Have you ever been on an airplane or driven through the mountains and dealt with your ears popping? A common question we often receive is, “does skydiving hurt your ears?” The simple answer is: it is rare that skydiving hurts your ears, but it really depends on the person.
THE SCIENCE OF EAR-POPPING
To understand if skydiving hurts your ears or if you will feel ear pain after skydiving, let’s talk a little bit of science. First, the pressure changes – called barotrauma – is the sensation you feel when your ears feel plugged or clogged. When the pressure outside the ear changes significantly, such as during ascent in an aircraft or during freefall, there can be a pressure difference between the inside and outside of your ear. Air is naturally trapped in our middle ear. To equalize the pressure, air is being passed through the middle ear to the throat via the Eustachian tubes – hence the “popping” of our ears. Since our ears, noses, and throats are all connected, this explains why things like yawning, chewing gum, or swallowing can help clear your ears.
DOES SKYDIVING CAUSE EAR PAIN
Here’s the deal about skydiving ear pain. First, if you have a cold or allergies (anything causing congestion) we recommend not skydiving as this is very likely to cause pain while skydiving. The drastic pressure changes are intense and can cause injury and in some cases, permanent damage. Since we also prefer to not be sick, and share an amazing experience, not germs, we will have to advise those recovering from any sicknesses to reschedule for another day anyway. You will want to feel as good as possible for the awesomeness that is your skydive!
To be proactive in ensuring a good experience, here are a few tips about ears and skydiving!
TIPS ON WHEN AND HOW TO CLEAR YOUR EARS SKYDIVING
Okay, now we know what causes ear pain from the pressure, but if you’re healthy, generally you will not feel ear pain while skydiving. However, even in healthy ears, we are still dealing with altitude changes which cause pressure in your ears. So here are three tips to clear your ears for skydiving:
TIP #1: Clear Your Ears By:
Holding your nose while closing your mouth
Opening your mouth wide and moving your jaw side to side
The Valsalva maneuver: To equalize the pressure in your ears and relieve that uncomfortable feeling or “popping” sensation, you can perform a simple technique known as the Valsalva maneuver. This involves gently closing your mouth, pinching your nose shut, and attempting to exhale against the closed airway. This action can help equalize the pressure in your ears by allowing air to flow into your middle ear through the Eustachian tubes.
TIP #2: Clear Your Ears On the Ride Up to Jump Altitude
When you’re in the plane climbing to your desired altitude for skydiving, the air pressure inside the aircraft remains relatively constant. However, as the plane gains altitude, the air pressure outside the aircraft decreases. Climbing into the skies will feel similar to riding a car up in the mountains. Clearing your ears will help you acclimate and be all ready for freefall.
TIP #3: Clear Your Ears While in Freefall and When the Parachute Opens
This is the same concept as when free divers dive down into the ocean, clearing their ears to maintain equilibrium. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming to remember during the amazing skydive. Therefore, if you don’t clear them in freefall, then definitely clear your ears when things settle down when the parachute opens.
If you have sensitive ears or are prone to allergies, you may want to consult a doctor before making a skydive. Knowing these things ahead of time will help us all better prepare and keep each other safe.