My Ears Pop When I Exercise Hard

Intense exercise is good for you. It strengthens your muscles, endurance and will. If ear popping accompanies your intense exercise, you may need a change in workout technique. Typically a simple change in ear pressure, ear popping is not a life-threatening condition, just an uncomfortable one.

running woman
A woman running outside. (Image: anyaberkut/iStock/Getty Images)

Up High

The most common scenario in which you experience ear popping is when you fly in a plane. The rapid change in altitude, increases the amount of air pressure in your ears. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, ears pop when small air pockets get trapped within the middle ears. The air travels from your nose to your ears through the Eustachian tube. This can occur during exercise, too. Incorrect breathing is usually the culprit, which can be fixed and help you avoid the uncomfortable ear popping.

Can't Take the Pressure

If you hold your breath during exercise, especially if you inhale deeply and hold in the air, that air needs a place to go. It cannot escape against closed lips and you may feel your cheeks puffing in response. As a result, the air escapes backward into the ear tubes and ends up in the middle ear. Your ears try to regulate the air pressure by popping. One way to do this is to release your held breath, but that may not resolve the issue. You may need to swallow to open the Eustachian tube and release the air pocket. This opening allows the air pressure to return to normal levels.

Bear Down

When you exercise hard -- by lifting heavy weights, for example -- you may have a tendency to hold your breath. This bearing down feeling is similar to the one you may experience when having a bowel movement. It is known as the Valsalva maneuver. The benefits are a stabilization of your core and torso, which can enhance your muscular performance. However, repeated or prolonged use of this technique leads to a drop in blood pressure. This drop diminishes the circulation to the ears, which can deter the removal of the air pocket. As a result, the pressure in your ears continues to increase.

Oh What a Relief

The easiest way to eliminate the ear pressure is to avoid holding your breath while exercising. When you exhale as you exert or lift the weights and inhale as you relax or lower the weights, you keep your ear pressure stabilized. If your ears do experience pressure, simply swallow. You can do this dry by swallowing your saliva or speed up the process and swallow a liquid such as water. On a regular basis, as you exercise, you may find relief by chewing gum or yawning frequently to keep your inner ear tubes open.

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