Can You Fly With a Perforated Eardrum?

It is safe to fly with a perforated eardrum with a physician's approval before or after surgery to repair the injury, according to the Department of Health. Flying, though, causes air pressure changes that can cause pain or discomfort in the ear while in flight.

A perforated or ruptured eardrum indicates that there is a tear or hole in the eardrum, the thin layer of tissue that separates the middle ear from the outer ear, according to the Department of Health. Air typically passes into or out of the middle ear through the eustachian tube and opens when a person yawns or swallows. When the cabin pressure in an airplane increases, the eustachian tube can become blocked; however, it may be less painful for people with a perforated eardrum because the air is able to pass through the hole that is perforated or ruptured.

Individuals who have recently had surgery to repair a perforated eardrum may actually experience more discomfort when flying than those with an existing rupture because the cabin pressure blocks the eustachian tube and may produce sharp pains within the ear, according to the Department of Health.

Travelers should consult with a physician prior to flying to evaluate if ear drops or medication may ease the pain or discomfort. Medication may prevent the risk of infection that could develop into hearing loss, according to the Nemours KidsHealth Foundation.