Seriously, Take the Decongestant before Flying

Things I can’t hear:

  • The backup power generator outside my office
  • The wind
  • The cat’s one-side conversation with me . . . at all
  • People walking down side corridors at the office who I keep almost running into
  • Music in the car or the TV in the house unless the volume is way up
  • Soundtrack CDs in the car
  • The turn signal in the car
  • Cars approaching me when I’m riding my bike
  • Half of my coworkers when they talk
  • Most people at the other end of conference tables
  • Much of anything when I’m eating . . . except my food
  • Lisa when she’s tired or being snarky (but always in a playful way, I might add)

Things I can hear very, very well:

  • My own voice
  • My own breathing
  • My toothbrush and hairbrush
  • My facial sinuses
  • My head swiveling on my spine
  • The high-pitched ringing in my ears that I normally only hear in dead quiet places

If you’ve tried talking to me recently and only gotten a vacant look, don’t take it personally. If I’ve been talking even more quietly than normal or overcompensating by shouting, sorry. I’m not hearing things outside my own head very well these days. It’s the result of ear barotrauma.

It seems that it’s a bad idea to fly when congested. Evidently, it’s a very bad idea to take six flights in twelve days when massively congested. I didn’t suspect when I had sinus pain as we landed in Madrid and Barcelona that I would be walking around with invisible seashells on my ears for the next 24 hours. And I was starting to get a bit concerned when it lasted a couple days after we returned from Spain and then again the weekend that I flew to run Around the Bay. But I didn’t ever think it would still be with me ten days after flying home.

My doctor says that it might go away in another week or so. Or it might not. He’s probably going to send me to an ENT, who will probably prescribe me some steroids, which will probably wreak havoc on my blood glucose. My not-always-to-be-fully-trusted coworker says this happened to him after diving and his ears have never been quite the same since. Let’s hope medicine trumps anecdote.

So, suppose that you have barotrauma and need to go somewhere? My doctor’s advice: don’t fly. What if you had a cold, knew in advance that flying might mess up your hearing, and still needed to fly? My doctor’s advice: take a maximum-strength decongestant 30-60 minutes before flying, drink lots of water, use a saline nasal spray, and chew gum. Oh yeah, and try not to fly.

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2 Responses to Seriously, Take the Decongestant before Flying

  1. Jess says:

    yikes! that’s crazy! i never knew that was possible. i’ll join you in hoping it clears up on its own soon.

  2. mary says:

    totally sucks, and i hope you regain your hearing soon (especially before the walk for hunger, because i have a hard enough time hearing you talk, as it is!).

    adam, with his tiny sinuses, experienced this for years, almost every time he flew (especially if the flight was long or had multiple legs). he was always very good about taking sinus medication beforehand, and he tried all kinds of other methods, including wearing special earplugs that pilots use, but nothing seemed to work. finally, he either read or was told (can’t remember which) that taking sinus medication was probably making the problem worse, because it was drying up his sinuses. ever since, he’s basically done no prep before going on flights and hasn’t suffered nearly as much as he used to.

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