Eli5: Why does swallowing/yawning help pop your ears?

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Open for any other additional tips as I’m currently all plugged from a 7 hour flight

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4 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

There is a tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat, above the palate. This tube is closed while at rest, but anything that causes a contraction of the soft palate muscles (including swallowing and yawning) will cause it to open, so air will flow in or out of the middle ear, equalising the pressure with that of the surrounding air. That’s when you hear or feel the pop.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Because your ears and throat are connected. The pop is built up pressure on the cavities in your skull. When you move the muscles in the neck this changes the pressure

Anonymous 0 Comments

Eustachian tube. A canal that links the middle ear with the back
of the nose. The eustachian tube helps to equalize the pressure in the
middle ear. And of course, the mouth and nose are interconnected.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There’s tubes running between the sides of your throat and the backs of your eardrums. They’re called eustachian tubes, and the ends normally squish shut by default, like cooked tube spaghetti or your uretha, etc.

When you dramatically change altitude and the outside air pressure changes, your eardrums can get sucked in or bulged out by the pressure inside those tubes. And because they’re squished shut, the pressure can’t equalise.

By yawning and stuff, you stretch that part of your throat, and it pulls the ends of the tube open, so air can go in and out, letting the pressure match the outside again, and your eardrums go back to a neutral position.

You don’t actually need to do a full yawn – it’s usually enough just to push the back of your tongue forwards amd/or drop your jaw a little. If you breathe through your nose while doing it, you should hear the air rushing past, like someone breathing into the mic.

Also if you hold your nose and try to breathe through it anyway, you can usually force air into/out of the things, and clear them that way.

If you get a cold, the tubes can get all swollen and congested, and that’s called eustachian catarrh. It can be quite horibly distresing if one side or the other won’t clear properly, and you’re all uneven.

If you remain clogged up, decongestant (such as pseudoephedrine) is your friend.