Eli5 What is actually happening whenever I “pop” my ears?



Eli5 What is actually happening whenever I “pop” my ears?

In: Biology

Usually the air pressure in your middle ear is equal to the air pressure in the air surrounding you. But sometimes is isn’t! The actual pop would be the air pressure in your ear returning to a state equal to the environments.

Fast answer is, you’re forcing air into or out of your middle ear.

The long explaination answer is, your ear is made up of 3 parts, the inner ear, the middle ear, and the outer ear. The outer ear are the parts you can see and it stops at the ear drum. The middle ear is the drum and “hammer” (known as the malleus) that converts the sound vibrations to vibrations in the fluid filled parts of the inner ear called the cochlea. The inner ear takes that vibration and converts it to electrical signals the brain can interpret.

Now, the popping sound comes from the air in your middle ear. Your outer ear is open to the outside and responds to pressure. Your inner ear is filled with fluid and won’t feel any pressure. However your middle ear is like a balloon pinched at one end. As the outside pressure changes the airtight top of the balloon, aka your eardrum, flexes in and out because the pressure inside the middle ear stays the same. However that pinched end is known as the eustachian tubes and they are connected to your sinuses and by extent your nose so they are open to the environment as well. If the pressure difference between the environment becomes great enough the eustachian tubes will be forced open and let air into or release it from the middle ear. When the pressure equalizes the eustachian tubes will “snap” back together creating that “pop” sound you hear inside your ear.

Now you can force that to happen by manually taking pressure off the eustachian tubes by extending your jaw like with yawning or chewing or you can manually increase sinus pressure via plugging your nose and trying to force yourself to breath through it (as scuba divers do as they descend).