Monday, 9 February 2015

Ear Force One: Going Deaf When Flying!

When I left Seoul last December 2014 for my Christmas vacation in the Philippines, I knew I was in trouble. Days before I flew out, I caught a bad cold which I couldn't shake off even with my Korean doctor's medications. So, when the cold still persisted on the day of my flight, I rushed back to his clinic and told him I was flying out that night and I was worried, not because of my in-flight meal or a delay in my flight, but because of this nasal problem! 

       (Watching TV while waiting at my Korean doctor's clinic)

Years ago, I had to cancel my flight to Jeju Island when I hurt my eardrums after some confined water scuba diving lessons I took in Suwon City, just south of Seoul. The same Korean doctor advised me from flying. During that time, I could even feel my eardrums tighten up just riding the building elevator. I learned my lesson that time.

This time, about nine hours before my flight, my doctor gave me additional medication and told me to get some candies to chew minutes before take-off and minutes before landing. As expected, all throughout the three-and-a-half hour flight from Incheon International Airport to Manila, I had to attend to my nose, but I made sure I had a lot of tissue with me. Ha-ha-ha! 

And the worse happened.

      (Instead of a 'Mabuhay!', this sign at NAIA3 greeted me.                                      WTF, NAIA manager?)

My eardrums suddenly told me that the plane started its descent even before the pilot announced it. How? I could not equalize! I started to go deaf! During the flight, I had my earphones on to listen to some sleepy music. This time, the bass tones of the music were inaudible, and although I still could hear some passengers behind my seat talk, their voices sounded far and sounded like whispers. And the worst thing? I felt these invisible screws pressing into both ears. They were not that painful, but I was worried they'd rupture my eardrums! It was the same feeling when I scuba-dived, descending into the water and feeling the pressure against both ears, but this time, I wasn't wearing a wet suit; I was wearing a worried face for the whole 30 minutes until touchdown!

And when the plane landed at the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I couldn't celebrate my coming home! How could I? I was deaf! 

        (Sad looking Christmas decors greeted me at NAIA3)

I couldn't wait to run out of the plane. I had to see a doctor. And since there was no line at the Immigration lane for "PWD/Senior Citizens", I went for it. I later realized this was my lane. 'PWD' means 'persons with disability': my eardrums were disabled!  Although it was Christmas time, the first words I spoke to the first three Filipinos at the airport (Cebu Pacific ground staff, the Immigration Officer and the Customs Officer) weren't yuletide greetings, they were "Meron po bang medical clinic dito sa airport?" (Is there a medical clinic in this airport?).

The Cebu Pacific staff didn't know; the Immigration Officer pointed me downstairs; but it was the Customs Officer (thanks to her!) who ushered me to the medical clinic just behind the Customs area. It was already 2AM (the Cebu Pacific flight from Seoul was delayed by 90 freakin' minutes!), and I was tired, sleepy and deaf!

Luckily, the medical staff, Nurse Perez and Doctor Gatmaitan (I hope I remember their family names correctly; they were on duty on December 21, early Sunday morning), were able to attend me. The doctor told me that I was lucky my eardrums didn't rupture, but they were inflamed. I told him I was going to take another flight (this time, a domestic flight to Bacolod) in three hours, and I was worried (again!). He gave me some decongestants.

And although the take-off my the last leg home was worry-free, the same thing happened to me during the last 20 minutes. My eardrums went crazy again and I had trouble listening to the murmurs and whispers on board, even though I was still chewing candies. So I just distracted myself with the glorious sight from my seat window: the dark skies gradually turning red and orange as Sunday morning started to peep in. And on the final minutes of the plane gliding over the low clouds and seeing those green plantations below, I was just happy I was home. Deaf or not, but I was finally home! 

(Morning has broken...)

*  *  *  *  *  *

Here are some tips I found on the Internet when flying with cold:

1. If it's a slight cold, do take decongestants before flying. And bring a lot of tissues!
2. Chew some candies or gum minutes before take-off and minutes before the plane starts its the descent.
3. For babies and kids with colds, it's better not to let them fly because they may not know how to equalize. Do you ever wonder why kids cry a lot before landing? Maybe it's because they don't know how to equalize and they're experiencing a lot of pain. It's advised to feed them so that they would naturally suck in liquid which would aid in equalizing the pressure.
4. If you had injuries in your eardrums, do consult your doctor as they may worsen.
5. Do visit your doctor before and seek advice and medication if you're worried, like I was!
6. Immediately visit an EENT (ears, eyes, nose, throat) specialist after experiencing deafness during a flight. (After I arrived home, I visited one in Bacolod and he gave me antibiotics for my inflamed eardrums.)

Travel safe, everyone!

PS. Thanks to Dr. Gatmaitan and Nurse Perez of NAIA3!

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