Eli Orzessek is Travel's Digital Content Producer.

Ask Away: Painful ears to wheelchairs

From painful ears to wheelchairs, Eli Orzessek finds the answers.
If the pain is still there 48 hours later, see a doctor before you next fly. Photo / iStock
If the pain is still there 48 hours later, see a doctor before you next fly. Photo / iStock

Do you have any tips for intensely blocked ears that feel like your ears have burst or your skull is imploding - and lasts for 48 hours after landing?


Well, that certainly sounds unpleasant! Ear issues is the most common medical complaint of air travellers and while it's usually a minor annoyance for most, it can be very painful for others - particularly small children and babies.

The problem starts in the eustachian tube - a narrow passage that connects the back of your nose with the inner ear. During a flight, the tube has to open frequently and widely to deal with the changes in air pressure. However, as altitude changes during descent, the air pressure change means the eardrum is pushed inwards, causing the pain you describe.

The first thing to do to combat this is to swallow frequently, as this activates the muscles that open the eustachian tube.

Try chewing gum, drinking, or eating. Yawning is even more effective.

If these tips don't work, try pinching your nose and and make like you're blowing your nose. You should hear a nice pop if the ears unblock.

You can also try a decongestant pill or nasal spray an hour or so before descent, as these products shrink the membranes in the nose and throat and help ears pop. Being tested for allergies is also a good idea.

Since it sounds like it's quite a problem for you, if the pain is still there 48 hours later, see a doctor before you next fly. If it's a chronic issue and you fly a lot, some doctors recommend surgically inserting small pressure equalisation tubes in the eardrum - which guarantees the equalisation of that pressure.

I am partially disabled and capable of walking only very short distances, with the aid of a walking stick. Despite this, I would like to plan a holiday to various destinations in Europe. Are there any specialist travel agencies in New Zealand who cater for this? I do not want to be part of a group tour.


Yvonne Payne, owner-operator of House of Travel Browns Bay, said she has a number of clients who travel with varying disabilities.

In these cases, she works with smaller, private companies that allow flexibility and can accommodate accordingly.

They work closely with a number of companies to make sure everything comes together smoothly.

Companies such as Peugeot Eurolease are great for wheelchair access and of course, some hotels are better than others when it comes to disability access. You'll want to be close to the town centre and attractions to minimise your travelling time.

I'd recommend getting in touch with a travel agent who can then link you up with a private tour company. Cruises are another great option - there's no need to deal with luggage and you spend less time cooped up in tight spaces like you would travelling by train, plane or car.

Tweet us @NZHTravel or use the hashtag #NZHAskAway

Email your questions to askaway@nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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