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Wake Up Before Landing if You Know What’s Good for Your Ears

The good, the bad and the ugly things we learned about our bodies today

“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full, upright position.”

By now, most of us know this airline announcement by heart. But soon, you might hear something new: “WAKE UP!”

Research recently published by Harvard Medical School has suggested that sleeping through a rapid change in altitude can cause permanent damage to your hearing. That’s because changes in altitude — like those experienced during takeoff and landing — cause changes in air pressure, and air pressure changes is what causes your ears to “pop.” When you’re awake, you might chew some gum, swallow, do that weird thing with your jaw that seems to work or whatever your secret method might be to equalize the pressure in your ears with the pressure in the cabin.

But when you’re asleep you’re not doing these things, and that may cause a condition called barotitis, where pressure forces the eardrum inward, resulting in pain. If left too long without being popped, your eardrums can become infected, which, in turn, can result in permanent hearing loss.

So don’t hit the snooze next time the flight attendant comes on the loudspeaker to tell you you’re landing.

A few of the other things we learned about our bodies today:

  • Another day, another vital part of the human food chain is discovered to be lousy with plastics. This time: shellfish.
  • Let the great Fluoride Scare of 2017 begin: Increased exposure to the tooth enamel-protecting ion in the womb has been linked to lower IQs in children.
  • Having trouble losing weight? You might want to get your gut flora analyzed.
  • At least one website disagrees with the widely circulated finding that having ice cream for breakfast is good for you.
  • If you don’t want your kid to develop asthma, consider letting the family dog sleep in the crib. Exposure to pet allergens can reduce the risk of developing the breathing condition.
  • In today’s “no, duh” news, smoking even one pack a day is really, really, really bad for your lungs.