The reason that your ears hurt is because of the increase in air pressure in the cabin on descent, relative to the cabin air pressure at higher altitudes. At cruise altitude, the cabin pressure is about the equivalent of air at 8,000ft. As you come down, the pressure increases to normal levels, which pushes on your ear drums. The air in your ear canals had gotten used to the 8,000ft air pressure, and now has to try and level itself out with the outside air. By holding your nose and trying to blow air out of your ears, you are trying to open up the drums to allow air to equilibriate between the two. If you can't get the air to balance inside and outside of your head, it feels like your head is being pounded. If you have a sinus infection, you will be even more stuffed up, making it feel much worse. Hope this clarifies the reason for it, and why it is a landing issue and not a takeoff issue.
The worst airplane I have been on and experienced this problem is both NWA and CO
DC-10's on international flights to and from LGW
. International flights will generally make your ears feel the pain longer because they have spent a longer time at the 8,000ft cabin pressure altitude.
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