One-third of dementia cases could potentially be prevented if the following lifestyle factors were better managed:

  • Hearing loss
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Smoking

Of those lifestyle factors, hearing loss has the greatest potential to help prevent dementia cases if it were treated starting in the mid-stages of life and continued on from there.

Treating hearing loss provides the brain with the mentally stimulating tasks that have proven to help strengthen the brain and its networks so it can continue to function at a higher level.

The link between hearing loss and dementia likely has to do with the lack of social isolation that can come along as the hearing loss is left untreated.  Without the social interactions, the brain does not have the exercise needed to enrich its function.

So, how can you help with ear pain with altitude changes? We rely on our Eustachian tubes to equalize the pressure in our middle ear space. Here are a few ways to help: 

  • Swallowing– When you swallow, that clicking or popping sound you may hear is a tiny bubble of air that has moved from the back of the nose into the middle ear, via the Eustachian tube. 
  • Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy- Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy will stimulate frequent swallowing which helps equalize air pressure.
  • Valsalva maneuver- With a mouthful of air, close your mouth and pinch your nose shut. Gently force air out until ears your ears pop.
  • Toynbee maneuver- close your mouth and nose and swallow several times until pressure equalizes. 

Here are a few additional tips:

  • Avoid sleeping during ascent or descent.
  • Drink lots of fluids in-flight to stay hydrated.
  • Yawn.
  • Try EarPlanes, specially designed ear plugs that have a filter to equalize pressure.
  • Use nasal spray 1 hour prior to landing and only as-needed. Overuse of nasal sprays can cause more congestion. 
  • Take a decongestant 1 hour before landing and also post-flight until ears normalize.

Why do some people get ear pain when flying? It has to do with air pressure. Normally, air pressure in the middle ear space is essentially equal to air pressure in the environment, but with fairly quick changes in air pressure (ascending or descending on planes), the middle ear space isn’t always capable of equalizing as fast.

When ascending, air pressure in the middle ear space is greater than in the cabin of the plane. This causes the ear drum (tympanic membrane) to swell outward. When descending, air pressure in the middle ear space is less than in the cabin of the plane. This causes the ear drum to pull inward, like a vacuum effect.

Whether ascending or descending, the push and pull of the eardrum can cause pain. Additionally, the eardrum is unable to vibrate when it is being stretched, which may cause a muffled sound quality or decrease in hearing. The Eustachian tube is key in helping the middle ear space equalize to outside pressure.

Next month we’ll share some tips on how to alleviate ear pain on airplanes.

In lieu of May 31st being national ‘no tobacco day’, here are some facts about smoking tobacco and your hearing:

  •  Smokers are 70% more likely to get hearing loss than those who do not smoke tobacco
  •  Teens exposed to tobacco smoke are 2 to 3 times more likely to get hearing loss than their counterparts
  •  Nicotine can cause tinnitus, dizziness, and vertigo
  •  Nicotine interferes with the neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve, which are responsible for telling the brain which sound you are hearing
  •  Smoking irritates the Eustachian tube and middle ear lining
  •  Smoking may make you more sensitive to loud noises, resulting in risk of noise-induced hearing loss

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