ZocdocAnswersCan I fly on an airplane?

Question

Can I fly on an airplane?

I am 19 years old, male, and my the ear drum of my right ear was removed via surgery roughly 9 years ago. It was removed because it had collapsed after a succession of ear infections and had to be removed. Since the ears 'pop' when changing altitudes by a significant amount, will my lack of eardrum affect my ability to fly?

Answer

First of all I am sorry to hear that you have been dealing with ear issues for so long. To be able to answer this question accurately, I would need to ask you more questions, and examine your ears which I can obviously not do in this forum. However, I can give you some information about the ear and exactly what happens when you fly. I would need to get the operative report from what exactly you had done 9 years ago. I doubt that your tympanic membrane (ear drum) was actually removed 9 years ago. (Not that I don't believe you, I have just never heard of it before). My best guess from what you have said about your history is that you had an atelectatic (collapsed) ear drum which was scarred down. Sometimes this can be repaired by placing a pneumatizing tympanostomy tube (ear tube). However, somtimes is there is a large hole in the ear drum that is too large to heal on its own, a tympanoplasty must be performed. This is a procedure which reconstructs the ear drum. The space medial to the ear drum is called the middle ear, and it needs to be aerated to work properly. The air get there through the eustacian tube. The eustacian tube is normally closed, but opens to equalize the pressure in the middle ear with the atmospheric pressure. This is what happens when you fly or climb a mountain. The "pop" is the eustacian tube opening and the pressure equalizing. If you truly have no ear drum, then there is no pressure difference and the point is mute. However I would recommend having someone take a look in your ear to tell you if you actually have an ear drum that has been reconstructed or not. Might want to take a copy of your operative report with you to the visit. Hope this helps.

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