Ears pop when there are pressure differences between the outside and inside of the eardrum, notes Andrew Weil, M.D. Most commonly, this happens when air pressure changes during an airplane flight or a dive underwater. The medical term for this popping is barotrauma if the eardrum encounters damage.
The most common solutions for ear popping include yawning or swallowing as these open the Eustachian tube linking the middle ear to the upper throat and rear of the nose. This sends air out of or into the middle ear, causing the pressure on the eardrum to equalize. Popping ears can be irritating but do not generally represent a serious problems. In rare cases in which the popping worsens, the eardrum can perforate or the patient can develop a severe ear infection. If drainage, severe pain or fever results, it's time to visit the doctor, according to Andrew Weil, M.D.
Nasal congestion from allergies, sinus issues or an ongoing upper respiratory infection can also contribute to ear popping. Making a salt water solution to gargle can facilitate clearing out the tubes, and chewing gum or keeping a mint in the mouth can help. Taking an antihistamine or decongestant before a flight can be helpful as well, as stated by Andrew Weil, M.D.