Flying on a plane can be an uncomfortable, noisy experience for adults, let alone children and babies.

While the noisy environment of a plane leads some passengers to wear ear protection, including ear muffs and ear plugs, all babies should wear ear muffs to protect them from the pain and damage that flying can potentially cause.

2 Reasons Babies Should Wear Ear Muffs When Flying

1. To Avoid Ear Pain

When flying, the air pressure inside the plane and cabin fluctuates, especially during take-off and when the plane descends for landing.

This is the reason for that annoying and sometimes painful ear-popping sensation we have all experienced on flights.

For babies, in particular, this new sensation can feel very odd and scary, as they have never experienced it before.

Additionally, kids and babies have more narrow Eustachian tubes, which is a passage that is connected to the middle ear and regulates air pressure.

The uncomfortable pressure felt in the ear when flying can be felt more strongly in these tubes, especially if a baby is suffering from an ear infection, which can be quite common.

2. For Hearing Protection

Planes can be very loud and therefore cause long-term damage to a person’s hearing.

This is why pilots always wear aviation headsets to protect their hearing every time they get behind the cockpit.

While most passengers and especially babies won’t be flying every day, if exposed to noise at 85 dB for more than eight hours, this can cause permanent hearing damage.

At 100 dB, this reduces to only 15 minutes a day.

For context, a normal conversation occurs at 60 dB.

For reference, at cruising altitudes, the noise is approximately 85 dB, but during take-off and landing, noise levels inside the cabin can reach as high as 105 dB, which means you and your baby’s hearing can be at risk on both short-haul and long-haul flights.

Helicopters can be even louder.

Flying Won’t Cause Permanent Damage to a Baby’s Ears

Fortunately, the pain that can be felt in the ear by babies when flying is only temporary.

This is because the Eustachian tubes will do their job and naturally open to let the air pressure equalize, thereby restoring normal order and ensuring that no lasting problems or damage will be experienced.

However, if your baby has an ear infection, it is recommended that you delay flying for as long as possible, preferably until the ear infection is gone.

Flying with an ear infection is especially problematic for babies, compared to adults.

This is because the pain in the ears that is felt when flying can significantly increase. It will also ensure that a possible rupture, or tear, of the eardrum will be avoided.

As mentioned, noise levels inside a plane can reach levels that can cause hearing damage, so babies should always wear ear muffs when flying.

2 Ways to Protect Your Baby’s Ears When Flying

While wearing a good pair of ear muffs is the best thing you can do to protect your baby’s hearing when flying, doing the following can also help:

  • Avoid the back of the plane: The back of the plane is notoriously louder than the front of the plane. So try to avoid sitting at the back of the plane when possible
  • Choose the aisle: A study found that window seats were 4 dB quieter than the middle and aisle seats

Ear Muffs vs. Ear Plugs vs. Cotton Wool

Neither ear plugs nor cotton wool are recommended for babies or young children.

Ear plugs are usually too big for a baby’s small ear canal, while also posing a choking hazard.

Cotton wool in the form of swabs or balls can easily fall out of your baby’s ear, can get stuck inside the ear canal if placed too deeply, and also pose a choking hazard.

Babies should wear ear muffs when flying due to their ease of use, sufficient protection, and safety.

cotton wool balls
You should avoid placing cotton wool in a baby’s ears

What Are the Best Ear Muffs for Babies When Flying?

Fortunately, protecting your baby’s ears on their next flight comes cheap.

In our opinion, the best ear muffs for babies when flying is the Alpine Muffy Baby Ear Protection.

They are the only CE-certified baby ear muffs on the market, which means that they meet the stringent legal requirements of the USA and European Union regarding safety, health, and the environment.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).