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Yawning and Your Hearing

Time to Read: 5 minutes

We all know that yawning is contagious but did you know how yawning affects your hearing?

We take a look at:

  • Why we yawn
  • Why is yawning contagious 
  • How yawning affects hearing
  • Why yawning is helpful when travelling
  • How to fly with hearing aids

Closeup portrait headshot sleepy young businessman funny guy placing hand on mouth yawning looking at camera isolated grey wall background. Negative human emotion face expression feeling body languageWhy we yawn

You might have been told that we yawn to get more oxygen into our bodies, but more recent research has shown that’s not the case.

What we do know about yawning is actually quite surprising. Yawning helps us wake up - especially when it is accompanied by stretching.

Strangely enough, it has been suggested that yawning might help regulate brain temperature.

Researchers observed a rise in brain temperature prior to yawning, with a decrease in temperature seen after the yawn.

Increased yawning rates are seen when fevers have been experimentally induced, which does suggest a correlation between body warming and yawning. But there is no clear evidence it leads to body cooling – just that body warming seems to be a trigger for yawning.

Yawning communicates tiredness and perhaps boredom. 

There are ways to stop yourself from yawning, but we’ll also look at places where yawning is actually helpful.

Recommendations include:

  1. Start breathing deeply
  2. Get moving - stretch, go for a walk and stimulate your mind and body
  3. Cool down - move indoors if you’re out, or enjoy a glass of cold water

Why is yawning contagious ?

Just about every animal yawns but only few creatures are ‘social yawners’ - people, chimpanzees, and even dogs.

Scientists aren’t sure why yawning is contagious, but they believe it might be related to being social creatures and we do it as a form of empathy building. Oddly enough, the old we get, the less susceptible we are to the contagious yawn.

How does yawning affect hearing?

When you yawn, both the tensor tympani muscle and the stapedius muscles are tightened. Both these muscles control the amount of sound entering your ear. In short, yawning creates a pressure difference between the inner ear and the surroundings so the eardrum vibrates freely(because it requires similar air pressure on both sides to vibrate properly and convey sound waves.

Why yawning is helpful when travelling

Tired Businessman at her Desk, Showing Yawning Gesture While Talking to Someone on Mobile Phone.We’ve all noticed when our ears pop when there is a change of altitude.  The Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nasal cavity, helps maintain air pressure in the ear.

Swallowing or yawning opens the Eustachian tube and allows air to flow into or out of the middle ear to help equalise pressure either side of the eardrum. 

If you become conscious of pressure in your ears, affecting a yawn will make your ears more comfortable. 

Other alternatives to try when flying include chewing gum, swallowing during ascent and descent to activate the muscles that open the Eustachian tubes. You can also try blowing your nose gently with your mouth closed while pinching your nostrils.

How to fly with hearing aids

You can wear your hearing aids when you fly - and you should, to ensure you hear any important transit or safety information.

We have some great information here on how to travel with hearing aids.