Why Do My Ears Pop When I Workout?

Do you know why your ears pop when you workout? It’s because of the change in pressure!


Understanding why your ears pop when you work out can be a helpful and potentially life-saving experience. Whenever we move from one place to another, our inner ear is the first to sense the change in environment. This involuntary reflex works together with our muscular system and heart rate to alert us to seek safety or rest depending on our situation.

Physical activity such as running, cycling or weightlifting can prompt this reaction in your ears for a few different reasons. Most of which are connected to the pressure changes caused by breathing or temperature swings that occur when we exercise. In this article, we will explore why your ears pop when you work out, how to prevent it and explain how it can affect your overall hearing health over time.

Anatomy of the Ear

The anatomy of the ear is complex and intricate, so it can be difficult to understand why ears pop when exercising. The primary cause of this phenomenon is the Eustachian tube, a small passageway connecting the middle ear to the back of the throat. This tube is responsible for regulating air pressure within the ear and adjusting for changes in the environment. Let’s explore this topic further and look at how the anatomy of the ear relates to this phenomenon.

The Eustachian Tube

The Eustachian tube is a small passageway that runs from the back of the nose to the middle ear, just above the ear drum. When we yawn or swallow, this tube opens up to equalize the pressure between different areas. During airplane flights for example, changes in pressure outside can cause discomfort inside our inner ear. To alleviate that feeling, we pop our ears to allow air back into the middle ear. This is because when we fly, there is less air pressure inside a plane than at sea level — so opening and closing of the Eustachian tube helps balance out these pressures.

Descending or exercising at high altitude also causes changes in pressure within the ear canal and in order for us to equalize it, our Eustachian tube needs to open and close too. That’s why you may experience some popping or clicking in your ears as your body adjusts to environmental pressures while working out at sea level or climbing mountains.

So if you feel popping or clicking while doing physical activity at higher altitudes – don’t worry! This is completely normal as your body adjusts itself to compensate for differences in atmospheric pressure. With proper mask wearing and social distancing protocols observed during outdoor activities – take some time outdoors and enjoy those stunning views with your healthy ears!

The Middle Ear

Located between the outer and inner ear, the middle ear consists of three small bones known collectively as the ossicles. The ossicles are made up of the malleus (“hammer”), incus (“anvil”), and stapes (“stirrup”). These bones act as levers to amplify sounds travel from the outer ear to the inner ear.

The space between these tiny bones is called the middle-ear chamber and is filled with air from a small bony canal leading from either side of the nasopharynx behind your nose. This canal, known as the Eustachian tube, equalizes air pressure between outside of your body and inside your eardrum. Its usefulness in keeping your ears healthy will become more important when we get to aerobics.

When sound travels through this chamber, it encounters physical structures known as helicotrema and apex that generally act together to block out low frequency noises while allowing high pitch noise frequencies pass through on their journey to reach your inner ear and its complex network of sensory chambers that give you your sense of hearing.

Causes of Ear Popping

Ear popping is a very common phenomenon that people experience, especially when they are engaging in physical activities such as working out. There are a few different causes of ear popping that can explain why it might be occurring. These causes can include changes in air pressure, allergies, and physical blockages. Let’s take a look in detail at what can be causing your ears to pop during exercise.

Changes in Air Pressure

One of the most common causes of ear popping when exercising is a change in the atmospheric pressure around you. When the air pressure outside your eardrum changes suddenly, it can lead to an imbalance in the air pressure between the outside and inside of your ear canal. To restore equilibrium, air is exchanged between these two areas and can cause a popping sensation. This is especially true when moving to different altitudes or depths, such as going underwater or climbing mountains. It’s also why your ears pop when you go on an airplane — you’re experiencing a sudden change in altitude and air pressure. Changes in atmospheric pressure associated with weather conditions are also known to cause ear popping during exercise, particularly if activity levels are quite high.

Sinus Congestion

Sinus congestion caused by illnesses such as allergies, sinus infections, and the common cold can lead to ear popping or a feeling of pressure in the ears. When your sinuses become congested due to infection or illness, there is a decrease airflow through the tiny Eustachian tubes, which are located in the ears. When these tubes cannot vent properly due to the blockage of mucus that has built up in your sinuses, they can cause pressure to build up and cause your ears to pop.

To relieve the pressure associated with ear popping due to sinus congestion, it’s important to keep your airways open by treating any underlying illness that could be causing the congestion in order to get back a healthy flow of air into your ears. You can do this by taking medication such as nasal sprays and decongestants or rinsing out your nasal passages with saline solution in a neti pot. Additionally, drinking plenty of fluids – especially hot fluids like soups and broths – increases humidity and reduces postnasal drip which helps clear away mucus from any blocked passages.


Allergies can cause ear popping due to the inflammation they cause in the sinuses and other parts of the Eustachian tube. Allergies can trigger increased mucous production and blockages, which can cause pressure on the Eustachian tube, leading to a feeling of fullness or popping sensation. Allergies typically appear shortly before or during exercise, making allergies one of the most common contributors to ear popping when working out.

In addition to affecting your ears, allergies can also affect all sorts of body systems from respiratory issues, skin irritations and eye issues. To alleviate ear popping associated with allergies, consider using over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants, as well as other home remedies such as neti pots and steam treatments. If your allergies persist despite these treatments, it’s recommended that you visit an allergist for further evaluation and treatment.


Swimming is a great form of exercise that can level up your cardio workouts and burn calories. But it’s not uncommon to experience ear popping while taking a dip. This can obviously be alarming and uncomfortable if you’re not expecting it.

The pressure change experienced when you dive into the water, or climb out of the water, causes a vacuum in the Eustachian tubes of your inner ear that affects your ability to hear clearly. Swimmers may also experience this sensation due to water entering the Eustachian tubes and remaining there after swimming.

To combat this issue, swimmers should ensure their ears are properly sealed with swim plugs before entering the water to prevent fluid from entering their ears. Once out of the pool, they should place a warm cloth over their ears and gently press down on them until they feel the “pop”—this helps equalize air pressure in the inner ear and restore normal hearing capacity.


Flying is a common cause of ear popping due to the changes in air pressure. The air pressure inside and outside the cabin differ drastically during take-off and landing, and during flight. When the plane takes off for example, the air pressure decreases as altitude increases. Inside the cabin, these changes are lessened by a pressurization system that is designed to keep the environment comfortable for passengers; however, your ear still needs to adjust as it senses structural pressure change in only one direction – outward from the eardrum. As a result, it triggers a temporary blockage of your Eustachian tubes – which helps relieve some of the pressure – causing an uncomfortable ‘popping’. To alleviate this sensation, ensure that you are swallowing throughout take-off and landing as it can help open up your Eustachian tubes and maintain equalized air pressure.

Prevention and Treatment

Almost everyone has experienced the feeling of their ears ‘popping’ during a workout. This is caused by a decrease in air pressure, which results in your Eustachian tube being unable to adjust. This can cause discomfort and can also affect your performance in the gym. In this article, we will look into how to prevent and treat this condition.

Chewing Gum or Swallowing

Chewing gum or swallowing are two methods for relieving ear pressure due to changes in altitude. The act of chewing or swallowing triggers a chain of events in the muscles and valves of the middle ear that is used to equalize the pressure between the outer ear and middle ear. This same mechanism can be used to pop ears during flights, while working out, or during any other activity that causes the inner ear pressure to increase significantly.

Chewing gum or drinking fluids helps keep the eustachian tube open by creating air movement within it. Swallowing also helps open this tube as well as activating a reflex action that equalizes pressure in both chambers of the middle ear. Therefore, next time you find yourself struggling with blocked ears due to sudden drops in air pressure, try taking deep breaths, yawning, chewing gum or swallowing.

Nasal Sprays

Nasal sprays such as saline water and decongestants are effective in treating or preventing Eustachian tube problems, including feeling of fullness in the ear or difficulty hearing. Saline water is effective at reducing ear congestion because it helps to flush away any irritants that may be blocking the Eustachian tube. Decongestants can help to reduce any inflammation that is present in the Eustachian tube, and can also help clear out a clogged up sinus cavity. It’s important to note that decongestants should not be used more than three days in a row, as this can lead to increased congestion. Additionally, if you have allergies or asthma you should consult your doctor before using a nasal spray on a regular basis.


When dealing with a problem such as why do my ears pop when I exercise, one of the most highly recommended solutions is to use earplugs. Earplugs are designed to protect the ears from loud noise, or high pitch sounds that may cause pain or discomfort. They help reduce stress and relief from symptoms associated with recovering from illness or injury.

In addition to helping protect your hearing, earplugs can also help reduce air pressure in your ears, thus preventing the popping sensation some people experience when they work out. This is especially helpful when going for a jog or running on a treadmill – both activities which increase blood flow and can cause the inner ear pressure to increase as well.

By blocking out any outside noise and decreasing inner ear pressure, these simple tools can be very effective in preventing more serious issues related to exercise-induced hearing loss. Wearing earplugs while working out will help reduce air pressure in your ears and thus have you feeling refreshed after leaving the gym.

Avoiding Altitude Changes

Changes in altitude can also cause your ears to pop or become blocked. It is recommended that you try and limit any changes of more than 1,000 feet at a time when exercising, to reduce the chance of this happening. Adjusting your speed when climbing or descending hills can also help, as can taking breaks during intervals, especially when running on a hilly course. If possible, plan your route so that you climb more gradually rather than suddenly going up and down steep inclines.

When traveling through mountains or deserts where the altitude fluctuates quickly and significantly, it is important to ensure that you are properly hydrated before beginning your workout routine to reduce the impact of these changes on your body. At times like these heading indoors for your exercise routine may be a better choice as it eliminates exposure to sudden changes in altitude.


To conclude, when our body and muscles increase in intensity while working out, they create pressure that is equalised in other parts of the body. This often leads to ear popping. However, this popping sensation is completely normal and harmless, so there’s no need for alarm. There are methods to alleviate or prevent the phenomena from happening such as avoiding extremely fast changes in height or eating foods rich in calcium. Overall, be sure to listen attentively to your body and practice healthy habits when exercising.

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