Ten Top Tips for Preventing Ear Problems when Diving

1st August 2011   |   Jackie Hutchings

It’s one of the basic skills . . .

  1. Equalizing to prevent ear problems when diving is something you need to do every few feet as soon as your head goes underwater. If you do happen to get an ear problem, tilt your head to one side, blocked ear to water surface to clear.
  2. The ear equalization process should begin even before you get into the water. To pre-pressurize using the Valsalva maneuver, blow through your nose gently before you begin descent.
  3. If you have a cold or a runny nose, don’t dive as this will make equalization a challenge. Descending is one issue, but even while ascending, you could experience a phenomenon called “reverse squeeze” which happens as cold medications run out. Some people with colds continue to dive using cold medications, but do be aware of reverse squeeze.
  4. If you have trouble trying to clear your ears, go up a few feet to see if ascending helps. Try a few feet each time until you clear. If you can’t clear, abort your dive to prevent possible permanent ear injuries. Be sensitive to your ears. This is probably the most important rule there is in scuba diving. Remember too, that while using the Valsalva method, blow gently, never forcefully to prevent ear injury.
  5. Ear Drum Pain (Myringitis) is commonly caused by clearing too hard, or striking the water too hard, or just a lot of going up and down during diving. You can prevent this by wearing a hood and gently clearing the ears. Myringitis can sometimes be relieved by plain olive oil or any soothing ear drop such as auralgan.
  6. Too much mucus can block your Eustachian tube. Avoid eating food that can increase mucus production such as dairy products before the dive. Alcohol and tobacco should also be avoided because they can irritate your mucus membrane and will produce more mucus that causes blockage.
  7. Look up to help you clear your ear. Extending your neck will open your Eustachian tube thus preventing blockage.
  8. Using a decent line is a good way to help you control the speed of your descent and avoiding pressure to your ear. It also helps you to quickly stop your descent if feel any pressure in your ear.
  9. Equilize often during descent and before you even need to. Remember that the deeper you go without equalizing, the harder it will be for your because the pressure increases as you go further down.
  10. Make sure that your mask is always clear of water. Water inside your mask can irritate your mucus membrane causing an increase in mucus production that can clog your nose and sinuses making it difficult to equalize.

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