Why do babies cry on airplanes?


WHETHER you’re the long-suffering parent or an unlucky passenger sitting in a neighboring row, a crying baby on an airplane is never fun. We’ve all been there. As the plane ascends or descends, baby feels the scary sensation of her or his ears popping, and a whimper that turns into a high-pitched shriek fills the cabin.
Of course, there are many reasons that a baby might cry on an airplane. Feelings of discomfort, exhaustion, hunger, loneliness, boredom, anger, pain and general unrest are all expressed by wails and tears, if not a total meltdown. However, there is general agreement that the pressure caused by flying at altitude is particularly difficult to bear for babies and toddlers. There is a fundamental anatomical difference between baby and adult ears, Dr. Simon Baer, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon in the United Kingdom, told Live Science.
“Certainly, one of the main reasons babies cry on planes is that they are not good at pressure equalization in the middle ear, as the infantile Eustachian tube does not generally function as well as [the one in] adults,” Baer said.
The Eustachian tube is a canal connecting the middle ear to the nasopharynx — the upper throat and the back of the nasal cavity. Basically, this tube controls the pressure within the middle ear, making it equal to the air pressure outside the body. The Eustachian tube remains closed most of the time, opening only for activities such as yawning, swallowing and chewing, which allows air through the passage between the middle ear and nasopharynx. When atmospheric pressure changes rapidly, causing a sudden feeling of blockage in the ear (such as during airplane travel), most adults yawn or swallow on purpose to open the tube and equalize the pressure within the middle ear. Baer added that the pressure is particularly problematic during the descent, as equalization is more difficult going from a low atmospheric pressure to a relatively higher one, which happens as the plane goes down for its landing.

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