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It is possible for skydiving to cause some discomfort to the old earhole, but luckily it’s totally preventable! Do people wear earplugs? Is skydiving with a cold a thing? Do your ears pop during skydiving? Can skydiving cause ear damage? Will I have insane ear pressure and pain that makes all my skydiving selfies look bad? So many good questions. Let’s jump into it!
Ear pressure when skydiving is fairly common, but don’t worry about compromising your auditory senses! One of the primary functions of our ears is to keep our equilibrium in check by staying balanced enough to tell up from down and not get dizzy, which is critical for a skydive! When we skydive, our bodies (which are designed to stay on the ground, thanks to gravity) experience a drastic change in altitude, and therefore a big difference in air pressure. The air pressure on the ground of our sweet Earth is not the same at 10 THOUSAND feet in the sky.
A common cause of ear pressure is dysfunction in our eustachian tube – a tiny tube in our ears responsible for equalizing pressure between the internal and external ear. Pressure changes happen quickly when skydiving, which can create a little vacuum in the eustachian tubes and, ultimately, cause some discomfort or minor pain.
Jump planes – the airplanes used for skydiving – are not pressurized like commercial aircraft. As our Cessna 182s ascend into the sky, you’ll be able to feel the change in the cabin pressure. It isn’t painful; it just feels like congestion. Air pressure changes in the airplane happen slowly enough for you to unclog your ears in real-time.
Your rate of descent in freefall is a lotttt quicker than the rate of ascent when you’re riding up to altitude in the plane. This means you’re trucking through a multitude of different air pressures at a super fast speed called terminal velocity! It’s when the parachute opens that you’ll notice the potential imbalance between your ear pressure and the current air pressure. This can result in some ear pain, but it’s easily remedied.
Occasionally, when you get to the ground you may feel like you can’t pop ’em clear! This is generally nothing to worry about and it typically clears in a few minutes (once your body gets used to being back on the ground). Obviously, if you have consistently weird ear pressure for hours or days you should probably see a doc, but this is very uncommon.
Here are our top tips and tricks from seasoned skydivers on how to quickly and painlessly clear or unclog ears:
Skydiving is one of the most intense extreme sports in the world, and while it is inherently risky, it is an extremely (seriously, extremely) calculated risk. Skydiving is LOUD and puts your ear tubes through a serious balancing act, but doing it one time is relatively risk-free. If you’re worried about the high decibels in the plane or during freefall and you’re wondering — “Should I wear earplugs skydiving?” — feel free to bring a pair you can slap in as you board the aircraft. Just make sure your instructor is aware of them so they can adjust their volume as necessary. Wearing skydiving earplugs should be the norm for skydivers who are repeatedly exposed to a rumbling aircraft and high-speed winds. Skipping the plugs may lead to some hearing trouble down the road.
We highly recommend NOT skydiving while you’re feeling under the weather (including colds or ear infections). When our sinuses are stopped up (ugh), it can mean our eustachian tubes are stopped up as well. When they’re blocked, it makes it super hard for them to properly clear any built-up pressure that happens naturally by falling through the sky – this can be super painful and even result in perforated ear drums (ouch)!