Do Airplanes Trigger My Tinnitus?

I am lucky enough to have mostly mild tinnitus so far. You can read about that here. But sometimes, I have flare-ups, and lately I have been noticing an interesting pattern. I seem to have at least a day of tinnitus flare after any air travel. This is a problem for me since I LOVE to travel, and most of the places I like to travel require an airplane ride. So what’s a weary hard-of-hearing traveler to do? NOT stop traveling, for one. But a renewed emphasis on ear protection on the airplane is key.

These post-airplane tinnitus flare-ups have been occurring for the last several months and are usually accompanied by a reduced ability to hear generally. Even for someone with normal hearing, it can be a challenge getting off the plane at a new destination, navigating the baggage claim, the rental car agency and perhaps customs, all with two children in tow. But with a tinnitus flare-up and reduced hearing, it can be hell.

I think the issue is the sustained level of noise on the airplane. I have clocked it on my iPhone decibel reader app and the interior of a plane is very loud — anywhere from 80 to 95 decibels depending on the flight. Once in the air, the sound is like white noise and is easy to forget about or ignore, but it is constant, and even on a short flight, this can be damaging to our hearing. The rule of thumb is that prolonged exposure to any noise at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss; and that damage can be permanent.

I have tried a couple of workarounds.

1.  My hearing aids fit deep inside my ear canal, so when I get on the plane I shut them off — not sleep mode, but totally off so they act as earplugs. This can be a challenge if I need to communicate during the flight because I cannot hear a thing! Almost all sound is blocked. Unfortunately, sometimes I have to turn the sound back on and off several times during the flight to talk to the flight attendant or a seat mate, but I try to keep the sound off for the entire flight, from prior to take-off until we have reached the gate.

2.  I try to reserve a seat on the aisle (farther from the outside noise) and as far away from the engines as possible. Sometimes this is not possible without paying for a special type of seat, which I don’t like to do, but if it is possible, I do so.

3.  I wear a hooded sweatshirt or jacket on the plane for an additional barrier to the noise. Yes, I kind of look like a dork, but if it helps prevent the tinnitus and reduced hearing, it is worth it.

These activities have helped a little bit, but have not eliminated the issue. I am still searching for solutions.

Readers, do airplanes trigger your tinnitus? What workarounds do you use?

19 thoughts on “Do Airplanes Trigger My Tinnitus?

  1. Calc Carb is a homeopathic remedy for Tinnitus and it would be worth your while to go and see a Homeopath who can help you. I am taking it myself now for tinnitus. Just started so best of luck. 🙂

  2. I don’t have hearing aids so I use a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones which are not connected to anything. I can still hear conversation, however that background noise is really attenuated.

  3. I have never really thought about this or maybe just haven’t connected the two! Will definitely think about it next time I fly! I don’t have issues with ear pressure when I fly so maybe not!

  4. When I fly I am usually substantially more deaf for days afterwards. It can really put a dent in a vacation. I try to sit as far away from the engines as possible, remove my HA’s and use ear plugs, but even with that it doesn’t eliminate the problem. I am wondering if you are wearing Lyrics since you mentioned a sleep mode. I have one Lyric (which is currently removed due to problems with it migrating) and a BTE in the other ear… I may be flying with the Lyric for the first time. Like the idea of shutting it down to use as an ear plug…

    • My work requires a lot of flying,my tnnitus (although not diagnosed ) is getting worse. I use Bose noise cancelling head phones, but not all the time.I used to suffer similar problems after repeated stints of scuba diving so I feel it may be more an air pressure variation issue than noise

  5. My work requires a lot of flying,my tnnitus (although not diagnosed ) is getting worse. I use Bose noise cancelling head phones, but not all the time.I used to suffer similar problems after repeated stints of scuba diving so I feel it may be more an air pressure variation issue than noise

  6. I have Tinnitus as well and travel, mostly short flights, at least 3 times a year. The noice inside the plane is unmistakable, and I always shut down my hearing aids. This does not cover up completely, but reduces the noice a bit. though, this reduces the communication as well. I have to be alert the whole time to power up my hearing aids if needed.
    After each flight, I always feel a bit cloudy in my head, like there are some cotton balls in it. Sometimes my Tinnitus increases, but I link this to the stress of travelling, the climate in the airplane too.

    • Yes, it is an issue. I find the noise canceling feature on headphones can really help. It offsets the hum of the airplane which for me is often a tinnitus trigger. I love to travel too much to let it stop me though! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

    • if the tinnitus is just starting, use self-hypnosis and order your brain to stop. if it is already strong, listen to music while flying. your tinnitus will go away.

  7. For me I ‘just’ figured out that I get (low freq) deaf and a loud tone tinnitus a day ore two after a flight.
    I think it has to do with the air pressure in combination with Endolympatic Hydrops (inner ear fluid error)
    I also had allot of ear issues in the mountains while skiing and when I use steroids the tone tinitus gets less (the noice stays)
    (This is also seen as a trigger with Ménière patients)

    My flights are max. 1,5 hour and I always have worn good noice canceling headsets, so the noise is definitely not the problem for me.

    If someone has the same experience, please let me know.

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