You really want to use your earphones for drummers on your flight, but you’re afraid they could cause ear pain or damage. Are there any possible problems associated with wearing in-ear monitors on a plane? Read this article to find out.
What Actually Happens to Your Ears During a Flight?
Probably anyone who has ridden in an airplane has experienced that ear-popping sensation. It feels uncomfortable, weird, or even painful. But it’s a common part of flying.
So, why does this happen?
The culprit is changes in air pressure. The air pressure inside your ear and air pressure outside our body are usually equal. There might be times when that’s not the case, but they’re often not too different to cause serious ear problems.
Let’s say you’re going to hike the Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park, California. Even if you were to hike to the top of the Nevada Fall or Vernal Fall, the change in air pressure as you ascend is often slow, giving your ears time to adjust. Therefore, your ears don’t feel full or produce that clicking or popping sound.
The Eustachian tube (a little passageway that connects your middle ear to your throat) usually acts fast enough to prevent air pressure from building up inside your ears. However, as an airplane goes up in the air, the air pressure changes so rapidly that it can’t keep up. This unequal air pressure inside your ear and outside is medically known as ear barotrauma.
Fortunately, this condition rarely produces severe complications, such as a ruptured eardrum. And the feeling that your ears are full or clogged is only temporary. But even if it only lasts within a few minutes, it can still be a miserable and painful (because of the stretching of the eardrum) experience, especially for babies and kids.
And there are times when the Eustachian tube needs help from you to introduce more air into the inner ear and restore balance between the two sides. There are different ways to do that, such as:
- Gum chewing
- Sucking on hard candy
- Valsalva maneuver (a breathing method that requires you to strongly exhale through your mouth while your nose is tightly closed)
- Stay hydrated in-flight
- Wear earplugs that have a filter for equalizing air pressure.
Aside from these things, can you use in-ear monitors to relieve ear pressure during a flight? Can you take them on a plane in the first place?
Is It Safe to Use An In-Ear Monitor On A Plane?
First of all, in the United States, the TSA allows passengers to bring in-ear monitors and headphones (including wireless models) when traveling by plane. They only prohibit passengers from using Bluetooth-enabled or wireless devices that are bigger than a standard smartphone.
As for the question is it safe to use on a plane, the answer would be: it depends on the design of your in-ear monitor. If you plan to wear an IEM without a venting system, it could further exacerbate the problem—as there’s no other way for the trapped air to escape and equalize the pressure.
You need an IEM with an efficient venting system. In the past few years, some manufacturers (e.g., 64 Audio, Stealth Sonics, and ADEL) have included a venting system into their in-ear monitor designs.
Whether you buy Stealth Sonics’ Klarity Valve or 64 Audio’s APEX™ system, this venting system is essentially a one-way pressure release valve or vent. They’re placed inside the IEM shell.
The main function of this valve is to allow air to leak, without allowing air from the outside to get inside. Armed with proper venting, this type of IEM [In-Ear Monitor Types] can effectively ease the pressure and stress that are building up in the eardrum and inner ear.
IEMs with a one-way pressure release valve also offer other benefits, not just to prevent airplane ear. They’re also useful for users, such as audio engineers, who need to wear these devices for extended hours. Without these venting features, people often experience ear fatigue after long hours of use.
Despite their obvious benefits, there are still some people who are concerned that the venting system will affect the capability of IEMs to block off ambient sound [Advantages And Disadvantages Of In-Ear Monitor]. The good news is these IEMs don’t usually “bleed” or lose their tight seal.
Since venting systems are one-way only, they fill the outer part of your ear canal to create the perfect seal. This restricts the spreading out of low-frequency sounds, which allows the reproduction of sound at the highest quality.
To help you understand better, look at it this way. Low-frequency sounds usually dispel faster than high-frequency sounds. That’s why you don’t hear much of the bass of a song if you play it on your smartphone’s speakers.
So, can you take an in-ear monitor on a plane?
Depending on your state’s or country’s flight safety rules, it’s generally safe to bring and use in-ear monitors during a flight. In fact, they’re probably the greatest invention in the history of air travel. They can help you stay comfortable by significantly reducing outside noise and helping your ears cope with the changes in air pressure.
But as what we shared, it’s important to get the right type of in-ear monitor. Look for a set that has sound isolation and one-way pressure release valve to get the best in-flight experience. With these IEMs, you’ll reach your destination ready to party!