Even for adults, airplanes can be noisy and uncomfortable places at the best of times.
So if you have an upcoming trip planned with your baby, you’re probably eager to know if babies need ear protection on airplanes.
In general it is recommended that babies wear ear muffs when flying in order to protect their sensitive ears and prevent damage from noisy aircrafts.
Why Do Babies Need Ear Muffs For Flying?
Eases Ear Pain
One of the most common reasons why babies cry on airplanes is because the cabin pressure presses down on their ears.
While it sounds technical, the cabin pressure on a plane is maintained using a system that essentially pumps air into and out of the the plane.
For an adult the effects of system are not much of an issue, because our ears are better equipped to equalize pressure.
But when your baby’s sensitive ears are exposed to this change in pressure, the pressing down on their little ears feel painful, strange and perhaps a little scary given they’ve never experienced this sensation before.
Protects Their Delicate Ears
Even the newest and largest planes can be loud environments that have the potential to cause damage to a person’s hearing, and small plane are even worse (more on this later).
This is why people that are in contact with planes on a daily basis, such as ground staff and pilots, wear ear protection in a bid to prevent long-term damage to their hearing.
But for babies and their sensitive ears, exposure to loud sounds for long periods could potentially damage their hearing.
So if you are going to travel on a particularly loud plane or helicopter, then a pair of ear muffs will definitely help protect your child’s ears.
Do Babies Need Ear Plugs For Flying?
You may be tempted to use ear plugs to protect your baby’s ears why flying, but is this safe?
Unfortunately it is not a good idea to use ear plugs (or cotton wool for that matter) to protect a baby’s ears.
Ear plugs could pose a serious choking hazard to a small baby, especially as they are likely to fall out given they’ll usually be too big for your infant’s tiny ear canal.
For the same reason it’s advisable not to use cotton wool balls, which could also get trapped and clogged inside your baby’s ear if inserted too deeply.
Can Flying Damage A Baby’s Ears?
A common question among parents who travel with their newborn is to wonder if flying could cause permanent damage to their baby’s ears.
The good news is that the ear pain that babies experience when flying is only temporary, and is unlikely to cause lasting problems.
So in most cases, the pain should go away after a few minutes, once your child’s middle ear tubes open to help facilitate air pressure equalization.
However, there is one exception, and this is if your little one has an ear infection.
If your baby flies while they have an infected ear then they may experience significantly more pain, which is why doctors recommend parents delay flying with their baby until their ear infection has gone away.
The reason for this is two-fold: (1) it avoids exposing your baby to pain, and (2) help avoid a potential rupture or tear of the eardrum.
If you’re in doubt about whether it’s safe to fly with your baby, then it’s worth speaking to a healthcare professional to discuss your circumstances in more detail.
How Else Can I Protect My Baby’s Ears When Flying?
Wearing a pair of ear muffs is the best way to protect your baby’s ears when flying.
But there are also a couple of other things you can do to protect your newborn’s hearing on a plane, including:
- Avoid smaller planes: smaller aircraft tend to be nosier than larger planes, so if possible try to book flights on larger aircraft.
- Sit at the front of the plane: the back of an airplane can be significantly louder than the front. While this can be a good thing if you’re traveling with a noisy toddler and are conscious of not disturbing other passengers, it exposes your baby to higher decibel levels than in other parts of the plane.
- Use a pacifier or bottle: the motion of sucking on a pacifier or bottle of breastmilk or formula can help ease a baby’s ear pain when flying.