This Is What Really Happens When You Pop Your Ears

If you've been congested from an illness or allergies, or you're on an airplane, you could feel the pressure building in your ears. That pressure can cause temporary hearing loss and generally be uncomfortable. That pressure can be relieved if you pop your ears, but is this really safe for you to do?

According to Collin County Ear Nose & Throat (CCENT), your ears have three main sections — the outer ear, the middle ear where your eardrums are, and the inner ear. In your middle ear, there is a tube that provides airflow called the eustachian tube, and it travels to the back of your throat. 

When you're in an airplane, and it's taking off or landing, you'll likely feel the pressure building in your ears. This also happens if you're going scuba diving, which is why it's essential to dive and come up slowly. That allows time for your ears to adjust to the difference in altitude, whether you're flying or diving (via CCENT). 

Congestion can also cause ear pressure and make you feel like you need to pop your ears. Verywell Health explains that congestion from allergies or a cold can cause fluid buildup in your middle ear, causing that fullness. While a decongestant can help get rid of the excess fluid, if it lasts for three weeks, you should see an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT).

Causes of ear pressure

If you have trouble popping your ears, it's likely your eustachian tube is blocked. As a result, you can feel ear pressure and possibly develop an earache. Difficulty popping your ears can be a sign of swollen adenoids, tonsils or sinuses; thick mucus blocking the air; or excessive ear wax (via Collin County Ear Nose & Throat (CCENT)

There are some safe ways to pop your ears to relieve that pressure, and they involve your jaw — yawning, chewing gum, swallowing (try drinking water), or sucking on hard candy. If you're congested from allergies, sinusitis, or a cold, try taking a decongestant to thin the mucus (via Medical News Today). 

So, what really happens when you pop your ears? It's your eustachian tube opening and closing. If you've tried the methods above for popping your ears, and they're not working, you need to see an ENT. They can help by draining fluid from your ears, surgically removing your adenoids or tonsils, or safely removing excess ear wax (via CCENT).