A Southwest flight had to turn around and make an emergency landing after a loss of cabin pressure caused passengers ear pain and, according to local media, left one with ears bleeding.
There was no indication of severe injuries, according to the Courant, but ambulances were dispatched for several passengers who experienced ear pain and injuries.
The pilot of the Boeing 737 asked for emergency medical technicians to meet the flight, and initial reports were that at least one passenger had bleeding ears.
The airline confirmed in a statement that the flight experienced a “pressurization issue shortly after takeoff.”
Flight 1694 got as far as eastern New York state, before circling back round to Bradley airport in Connecticut, where it had taken off an hour earlier.
“Several customers among the 139 on board are being treated for injuries and discomfort by local paramedics,” Southwest said in a written statement “We have removed the aircraft from service and will accommodate those wishing to continue their travel with another aircraft.”
Blood in Oxygen MaskBleeding from the ears is a common occurrence in the event of depressurization.
Last September, pilots of a Jet Airways flight reportedly “forgot” to turn on a cabin pressure switch and had to make an emergency return to the airport after passengers started to bleed from their noses and ears.
Passengers on board Jet Airways flight 9W 697 from Mumbai to Jaipur captured video of the incident, showing frantic passengers and oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling.
‘The Packet of Chips Would Also Explode’According to Adam Taylor, Director of the Clinical Anatomy, a sudden change in pressure could have caused the small blood vessels in the roof of the nose to rupture, due to expanding liquids and gases in the tissues and blood.
When the cabin pressure drops, higher pressure air is trapped inside the ears like the air in the bag of chips. This can be released by sucking sweets, drinking, and yawning, which opens up the Eustachian tube that runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose, allowing air to move through and pressure to equalize.
But the pressure outside the aircraft is still much lower—around only one third the pressure at sea level.
In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, the air escapes to outside the aircraft, and the pressure drops.
The same happens inside the passenger’s ears.
Taylor said, “At this high altitude, the pressure difference may result in ‘barotrauma,’ rupturing the eardrum and small blood vessels in the ear, causing hearing problems and bleeding. At this point, the packet of crisps [chips] would also explode.”