Travel Tips

Earplanes: The Cure for Excruciating Ear Pain. On Planes.

Have you ever gotten on a plane with a cold? Then you know the excruciating pain I’m about to describe. Imagine your ear canal narrowing to the point where it feels like your eardrums will explode. Imagine being in this excruciating pain for the entire duration of take-off and landing. It’s not fun and unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about it. The only product that has worked for me? EarPlanes. If that sounds like an infomercial…blame it on the fact that I was up all night watching infomercials while writing this.

EarPlanes review
EarPlanes: Ear plugs that help alleviate ear pain while flying

I’ve had two experiences where I boarded a flight while completely congested and then felt like I was dying at takeoff and landing. The first was two years ago, on a  flight to Cabo. The pain completely took me aback. During landing,I was actually in tears. A flight attendant gave me Tylenol, then advised me to always take one before getting on a plane with a cold. She herself had experienced this many times before. By the time I got off the plane, I had not only endured awful ear pain, but I also couldn’t hear out of my right ear. It took a week before my ear popped.

During my flight to D.C. last fall, I was super congested and the ear pain got so bad that I took pain killers from a stranger. I know that sounds insane, but I was on the verge of tears and figured the safest person to ask was the elderly woman sitting next to me. Older women always travel with a bag of pills and I figured she would be the least likely person on that plane to pull a Bill Cosby. The Advil helped, but I’m generally not big on OTC or prescription drugs, so before my connecting flight to Chicago to next day, I decided to search for other solutions.

To start, I tried various remedies in hopes of curing the cold in 24 hours or less. No such luck. At the airport, I was looking for cold remedies when I came across EarPlanes. These corkscrew-shaped ear plugs were supposed to curb excruciating ear pain that occurs when you’re flying while congested. Skeptical yet desperate, I bought a pair of EarPlanes.

I plugged the EarPlanes in before take-off, as instructed, and was surprised when I felt absolutely no pain. I took the EarPlanes off for the remaining flight and popped them back in at landing. No pain whatsoever. The best part? My ears actually popped after landing, which was great because I had spent the day before barely able to hear anything.

I know there are a lot of gimmicky products out there, but EarPlanes actually does work to alleviate in-flight ear pain. Yes, they’re basically just earplugs, but the corkscrew shape keeps them in place. After my excruciating experience flying while congested, I can attest that it’s the kind of pain you never want to experience. I would highly recommend EarPlanes to anyone traveling while sick. They really do eliminate excruciating pain caused by congestion. This isn’t a sponsored post, but I do have an Amazon affiliate link for this product if you want to get a pair of your own.

Do you have any remedies for curing in-flight ear pain while traveling with a cold? Please share in the comment section.

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  1. Hi Ariana. I can also attest to the efficacy of earplanes. Additionally, I was told by an ENT doctor to use a nasal decongestant spray before take off and at the start of the descent. Between those two tips, I have never again experienced excruciating ear pain.

  2. Hmmm, travelled on planes for 42 years professionally, even when they had propellers, and never heard of these. Thanks for the tip.

  3. I will be on a 30 hours international trip next week in economy. Any suggestions for a good travel pillow?

  4. I’ve been using Earplanes for almost 20 years. At times I can get excruciating pain in my ears when landing and these definitely help.

  5. I have used the earplanes and recommend the children’s size. The adult ones were very painful for me. If you are on the plane the flight attendants will bring you a paper cup with a hot wet paper towel inside it to put over your ear for take off and landing that somehow helps.

  6. Another vote for a nasal decongestant spray. I use it once about 1/2 hour before planned landing time, and again approx. 15 minutes later. Has worked for me every time. Previously I almost always was in tears with ear pain and splitting headache (that I almost otherwise never have), feeling as though my head would burst before we landed. BTW, I’ve always experienced that, for me, the faster/steeper the descent, the more pain to be endured. I may now try the Earplanes to see if they help.
    Don’t forget to force yourself to yawn a lot during descent, to keep your ears open.

  7. @Sharon. Another method to use after nasal decongestant in lieu of yawning is to hold your nose closed with your thumb and forefinger and blow air against your fingers as if you could force the air out. This really keeps your ears open on the descent. You can do it once every 5 or 10 minutes or as needed during the descent.

  8. Ariana, I was surprised you wrote “Older women always travel with a bag of pills…” Sexism, ageism, and gender stereotypes can be hurtful. If you’re lucky, you’ll be an ‘older woman’ one day.

    • Thanks, Doug! I had to laugh since I guess I am one of those ‘older women’ with a bag full of pills! BUT, they are all my husband’s medications. I may be ‘chronologically advantaged’, but lucky enough to still not need any medication on a regular basis!

    • I made that comment in jest. It’s not sexist to suggest elderly women travel with tons of pills – it’s a common/funny stereotype and in this case it turned out to be true. Elderly men have bags of pills too, but I don’t trust those scoundrels. 😉 And yes, I’m sure one day I’ll be one of these women and I’ll have a sense of humor about it then too.

  9. I have terrible allergies so suffer greatly when flying. My doctor recommended sudafed 30 minutes before departure and every 4 hours. It dries out all (or most) of the congestion for a short period of time to avoid the insane ear pain when landing. Totally works for me. I ran out for a recent flight and suffered and vowed never again. I’ll buy some earplanes as backup!

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