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July 18, 2016

There’s one great equalizer that everybody in the airplane cabin, from baby in the back to businessman flying first class, must endure: the ear pop.

Blame that pop on the Eustachian Tube. It’s a structure that connects the middle ear to the space between the back of your nose and your throat (nasopharynx, to be technical). This tube opens and closes throughout the day to regulate pressure inside the body, but we feel it most in situations like scuba diving or airplane takeoff.

This informative video from STAT News finally explains what’s happening inside of our heads:

During these “pressure phenomena,” the Eustachian Tube opens and closes to equalize the pressure between middle ear and the outside world. So, your time-tested techniques of chewing gum or plugging your nose and blowing out your ears are actually just techniques to get your Eustachian Tube pumping.

But the Eustachian Tube is working constantly—hundreds of times a day, according to the scientist STAT News interviewed—so there’s no need to fret when it feels like your ears will never pop. Just give your Eustachian Tube time to do its job—and maybe bring a pack of gum.

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