Does Air Travel Affect Tinnitus?

This blog post has been reviewed and approved by a hearing care professional.

Tinnitus is the perception of sounds within your hearing system and is often explained as a ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing or humming sound. Similar to how tinnitus varies individual to individual, so does whether or not flying may affect how your tinnitus is perceived. For some it may seem to make it more pronounced while others may find it not as noticeable. 

Tinnitus is one of the most common hearing conditions that people experience. An estimated 37% of adult Canadians (9.2 million) experienced tinnitus in the past year.1 Often for individuals with tinnitus, environmental sounds may help drown out their tinnitus. So for some individuals engine and conversational noise in the plane may draw the focus away from their tinnitus.
What Can Affect Tinnitus During Air Travel?

Temporary hearing loss can be caused by changes in elevation or barometric pressure. Sudden stressful events may also affect an individual's perception of tinnitus. If the idea of getting to the airport on time and getting through security gets you stressed, this may impact your tinnitus while you are flying.

  • A temporary conductive hearing loss may be caused by changes in pressure within the cabin. This may result in poorer hearing thresholds, causing environmental sounds to seem softer. With less environmental sounds helping ‘distract’ our brain our tinnitus may seem louder. If your ears get blocked during a flight you can try these tips to prevent them from blocking.

  • Sudden stressful events, such as worrying about flying may cause unexpected changes to your tinnitus. Try focusing on other things such as reading or watching entertainment while in flight to help reduce stress. Staying hydrated and taking time to stretch your legs can also be beneficial.

How To Help Tinnitus While Flying

Wear custom earplugs

Not only do custom earplugs protect your ears from the loud noise, they may help reduce the external air pressure making the effects of altitude change on the ears less uncomfortable. 

Bring your own snacks/food or shop at a grocery store

Tinnitus isn’t always triggered by dietary factors, but many common food items may cause tinnitus to spike for certain people. When you are flying it can be hard to maintain your dietary needs by relying on what’s available around you.

To help maintain your diet you can bring snacks; not everyone knows that you can bring food through airport security checkpoints. There are limits to this when travelling internationally. Laws vary by country, and you may not be able to bring specific fruits, plants, or vegetables into the location you are travelling to. Once you arrive at your destination, you can stop by a local grocery store or order grocery delivery to your resort to get other snacks and food items that meet your dietary needs. 

Minimize the effects of jet lag

Jet lag doesn’t last long, but it may be stressful acclimatizing to a new time zone or place which may affect your tinnitus. Our bodies maintain an internal day/night cycle, called our circadian rhythm, which is interrupted when you are in a new time zone or there is a time change. Luckily, you can help minimize the effects of jet lag by gradually adjusting your schedule before you leave, getting plenty of rest before your trip or taking sleeping medication to reset your circadian rhythm (always talk to your doctor before trying any new supplement or medication).

The Takeaway
If your tinnitus is affected during a flight, it should go back to its regular levels within a few days. If you have any other concerns regarding your hearing, ears, and flying please reach out to your local HearCANANDA centre. We can discuss further with one of our knowledgeable hearing care professionals.
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1 Zevitas, Christopher, John Spengler, Byron Jones, Eileen McNeely, Brent Coull, Xiaodong Cao, Sin Ming Loo, Anna-Kate Hard, Joseph Allen. “Assessment of noise in the airplane cabin environment”. National Library of Medicine. March 15, 2018. Accessed February 2, 2023.