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Increased heart rate, fullness of head, humming sound in ear after a flight travel.

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2005
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After a flight to New York, I noticed a feeling like my heart was jumping out of my chest and it has not stopped. I felt pressure in my head, like a fullness, and 4 weeks later I developed a loud humming in my ears that is persistent. I noticed while flying the pressure in my ears was intense. In addition I've felt congested off and on. I tried a decongestant (sudafed) but it didn't help.
Posted Sat, 14 Apr 2012 in Brain and Spine
Answered by Dr. Radhika 5 hours later

Thanks for the query.

You have developed increased heart rate, fullness of head, humming sound in ear after a flight travel. I shall try explaining these symptoms to you.

At high altitudes, low air pressure makes it difficult for oxygen to enter our vascular systems. This results in hypoxia /oxygen deprivation. Pulse rate and blood pressure go up sharply as our hearts pump harder to get more oxygen to the cells. This may be the reason you felt the pumping of your heart.

Also air travel can cause of ear pain, fullness of head, humming sound, etc., due to changes in pressure that results from shift in altitude. Disturbance in the balance of pressures between the outer and middle ear can cause stretching of tympanic membrane (eardrum) producing the symptoms. The pressure changes and eardrum may sometimes lead to inflammatory changes within the middle ear which results in persistent ear symptoms like yours.

You will experience this mostly during takeoff and landing. And if you are suffering from cold and sinus infections or sleeping on an airplane during descent or ascent these symptoms can be triggered/ exacerbated. To prevent this swallow frequently, use chewing gum, yawning or simply open your mouth wide.

The symptoms though benign usually resolve in a few days. As you seem to have persisting symptoms, I suggest you to consult your primary healthcare provider for a detailed examination of your pulse/blood pressure and ear.

In the meanwhile drink plenty of water. You may also try Valsalva maneuver - which involves closing your nose with your thumb and index finger while exhaling gently against your closed mouth as if blowing your nose. This will provide you some relief from congestion.

Hope I have answered your query. I will be available for follow up queries.

Wish you good health and speedy recovery.


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