by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man explained,
Our family is headed from the east coast to Colorado this summer and, deciding to play it safe, we will be taking a train to avoid flying and the consequent air pressure changes since our daughter has LVAS. However, I recently came across some information that the ups and downs of the Colorado mountains may cause just as much pressure fluctuation as taking a plane, thus taking away any benefit we thought we would be providing our daughter by taking the train. I know that the flying decision is a personal one, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts about this.
Here’s what I’d do.
First, look at her previous hearing history. What kinds of things have affected her hearing in the past? For example, if only hard bumps to the head cause hearing loss, it is highly unlikely that mild things such as pressure changes will affect her hearing. However, if just blowing a trumpet or straining at sports or straining at anything else has caused hearing loss, then you might expect that she will also be sensitive to pressure changes that you could expect in flying or driving over the high mountain passes. I always like to go by past experience as it is probably the most reliable predictor of what kinds of activities might affect her in the future.
Second, if you are worried that she is sensitive to pressure changes, whether in flying or driving, why not go to the drugstore and get a pair of EarPlanes in her size? Then, before you go up or down a mountain, have her put them on. The EarPlanes will slow down the pressure changes and hopefully prevent any hearing loss or other problems. Better yet, have her wear the EarPlanes both up AND down the mountain. In other words, before you change elevation significantly have her put them on and leave them on until you are back down to the same elevation again if you are just going over a mountain. If you are going to be going up to a high plateau and staying there for a while, then she can take them off after you arrive, but have her put them on again before descending.
EarPlanes are designed for flying, but as you correctly point out, the pressure changes going up and down mountains are about the same as in flying. In fact, the pressure changes may be even faster and greater on steep downhill runs on a mountain than when flying. Thus I highly recommend she wear EarPlanes in such situations.