Does Skydiving Hurt Your Ears?

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Some people really do have ears that hang low and wobble to and fro, and they certainly add charm to face-flapping we all experience during freefall

But does the air pressure on the ride up and the wind on the way down actually hurt? And what about skydiving with a cold – should you reschedule? These are common questions with a simple set of answers – check it out:

THE RIDE UP

Chewing gum or nursing a hard candy to relieve ear pressure during ascent and descent is a common tactic in commercial airline travel, but it’s not so necessary for skydiving. 

Commercial planes pressurize the cabin at 3,000 feet. Skydiving planes don’t pressurize at all (we don’t necessarily even close the dag-on door), meaning you experience changes in altitude in real time. Your ears can feel a little stuffy as the plane climbs, but it’s typically painless. 

Things can feel more intense if you’re sporting a head cold … but we’ll get to that.

Skydiving with a cold

THE FLIGHT DOWN

Flying at 120mph in freefall means experiencing altitude changes way faster than on the ride up. The usual result is temporarily stuffy ears. 

Here’s the science behind it. The air is thinner at exit altitude, so the pressure outside is actually less than on the inside of your ears. To equalize, the pressure wants to push from the inside out. But as you descend, the air gets consistently thicker and the reverse begins to happen. The pressure inside decreases as the outside pressure increases and there’s a sensation of pressure pushing from the outside in.  

It’s a strange sensation to describe, but essentially it feels like your ears are filling up. Once back on terra firma, a little equalization exercise will fix you right up. 

Before we talk equalization, though, let’s talk noise. A common thought is that the rushing wind is deafening. It isn’t. The sound is on par with driving on the highway with your windows open. You might have to shout to talk to your passenger, but you aren’t in pain. Seriously, no big deal. 

EQUALIZATION

Equalizing your ears means changing the pressure inside to match the outside. There are a few ways to go about it: 

One is the tried-and-true gum and candy trick. 

Another is to close your mouth and hold your nostrils closed while gently blowing through your nose. Swallowing while doing this can yield even faster results.

Because equalizing restores balance between your innards and your environment, it’s wisest to wait until you’re on the ground to work your magic. Doing it while under canopy is somewhat fruitless because you’re only at a particular altitude momentarily. 

Land-Equalize-Celebrate. Boom.

SKYDIVING WITH A COLD

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but skydiving with a cold is a no-good, very-bad idea. 

Clogged sinuses due to the common cold or some other illness means you’ll be hard pressed to equalize on landing … which can make for a pain-filled afternoon. Not the kind of memories you want to carry forth from what should be one of your best-ever days.

If you wake up stuffy on jump day or don’t shake the sniffles in time, get in touch and we’ll help you devise a Plan B if necessary.

At Oklahoma Skydiving Center, we’re passionate about our sport and dedicated to making sure everyone we serve feels comfortable and confident ahead of their life-changing adventure. 

If you have questions about anything at all – reach out. We’re here to support you on this incredible journey. 

Blue skies, y’all.

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