Either an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold or sore throat … can produce enough congestion around the eustachian tube to make [pressure] equalization difficult. Consequently, the difference in pressure between the middle ear and aircraft cabin can build up to a level that will hold the eustachian tube closed, making equalization difficult if not impossible. The problem is commonly referred to as an “ear block.” An ear block produces severe ear pain and loss of hearing that can last from several hours to several days. Rupture of the ear drum can occur in flight or after landing. Fluid can accumulate in the middle ear and become infected. An ear block is prevented by not flying with an upper respiratory infection or nasal allergic condition. … If an ear block does not clear shortly after landing, a physician should be consulted.
Having just recovered from a nasty cold the Sunday morning before, that was (what some would call) the first mistake of the flight.
(Some might call spending two hours stuck in an airplane next to Reed the first mistake, but I assure you, he was a model passenger, and I’m proud to report I won’t be invoking the “interference with a flight crew felony” clause—which applies to general aviation aircraft as well, thank god—the airlines always cite.)
Since I’m going on Day Five of not being able to hear out of my right ear, it may have turned out to be the worst mistake of the flight… but arguably, I didn’t know it at the time.
I think I began to realize something was going to be wrong when we climbed through about 2,500 feet (ironically, over the Mozilla offices), and my ears didn’t want to pop… and about 500 feet later, started to pop in the most excruciatingly painful way).
After about 5,000 feet, the popping was over, and I thought to myself “Well, alright. That was awful. Lesson learned. Let’s get to Oceano.” Enter an mostly uneventful (and beautiful) flight down there.
Until the descent. The the excruciating popping—in reverse—occurred. Oh my Jesus Lord… did I beg for forgiveness.
The lunch was good (clam chowder in a bread bowl!), but slightly rushed… and the refueling stop in San Luis Obispo-proper was uneventful.
The flight back was also uneventful and the sunset, beautiful.
On the descent into Palo Alto, though, my right ear refused to clear… and if you want to talk about horrible sinus pain… oh man.
But, a low approach at Moffett Airfield with the approach lights on almost made it all better.
The full Flickr set—for those that want to nitpick about cloud clearance requirements— is here.
Overall, I had a really fun time. I hope the ReedBot did too.
And now, to play the waiting game with my hearing returning to my right ear (although, it did pop in a clearing-sort-of-way tonight, so that’s encouraging…)