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Ear Popping Causes & Risks


Barotrauma is caused when the air pressure inside and outside the body are different, causing discomfort. Causes include:

  • Flying
  • Scuba diving
    • Ascending (going up to the surface) without exhaling freely
    • Swimming quickly to the surface when diving
    • Holding your breath when ascending
    • Underwater diving for an increased period of time
    • Repeated dives within 24 hours
    • Flying in an airplane after diving
    • Having air pockets in equipment (eg, masks and dry suits)

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

The following factors increase your chance of developing barotrauma:

  • Congested nose from allergies or colds
  • Congenital (present before birth) blockage of the eustachian tubes
  • Smoker
  • Age: children and older adults
    • Eustachian tubes in children are smaller and more likely to become blocked.
  • Damaged eustachian tube, caused by scarring or a tumor
  • Obstructions in the ear
  • Cleft palate or lip—may affect balance of pressure in the middle ears
  • Holding your breath while diving
  • Deeper dives
  • Long amounts of time spent underwater diving
  • Repeated dives within 24 hours
  • Flying in an airplane after diving
  • Rapid climb to the surface when diving
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Cold water
  • Obesity
  • Ill-fitting equipment used for scuba diving
  • Congenital (present before birth) blockage or narrowing of the sinus drainage system

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2022 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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