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Klokker M, Vesterhauge S, Jansen EC. Pressure-equalizing earplugs do not prevent barotrauma on descent from 8000 ft cabin altitude Aviat Space Environ Med 2005; 76:1079–1082.
Introduction: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of pressure-equalizing earplugs available in major airports and drugstores. No previous study has focused on preventing barotrauma using these earplugs. Methods: Blinded and double-blinded, one type of pressure-equalizing earplugs (JetEars®) was studied in 27 volunteers disposed to ear barotrauma. They acted as their own controls with an active earplug in one ear and a placebo earplug in the other ear at random. All were exposed to the same well-defined pressure profile for 1 h at 8000 ft, comparable to the environment in civil commercial air travel in a pressurized cabin. Satisfaction was assessed by questionnaire and objective results were evaluated prior to and after the pressure exposure by tympanometry and otoscopy using the Teed classification. Results: The majority of the volunteers (78%) reported a pleasant noise-reducing feeling using the earplugs. However, 75% also experienced ear pain during descent. In comparing the middle ear pressure before and after pressurization, a decrease was found in ears with both active earplugs and placebo earplugs. No difference between the active and the placebo earplugs were found. Furthermore, after evaluation of the two groups of ears using otoscopy, no prevention of barotrauma was found. In fact, the ears using an active pressure-equalizing earplug scored significantly worse (p = 0.033). Conclusions: Feelings of noise reduction were reported, but no prevention of barotrauma could be demonstrated with the use of pressure-equalizing earplugs. Pressure-equalizing earplugs cannot be recommended in air travel for preventing ear barotrauma.
The peer-reviewed monthly journal, Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine (ASEM) provides contact with physicians, life scientists, bioengineers, and medical specialists working in both basic medical research and in its clinical applications. It is the most used and cited journal in its field. ASEM is distributed to more than 80 nations.