It is very common for divers to experience ear equalising problems or other ear issues. The majority of divers only know one or maybe two ways to equalise and often don’t take good care of their ears.
Until you become a diver, you never give your ears much thought, only then do you
realise that your ears are very delicate. The rapid pressure changes that happen when diving, and the ability to equalise pressure in the middle ear are the most important skills a diver must learn. If you are a lucky diver, ear equalisation comes naturally. For many others learning how and when to equalise takes practice to master this skill.
Where do we start?
During your Open Water course, you learned to equalise often and before feeling discomfort. This is the best advice you will be given. Equalise early – It’s never too early to equalise. First equalise as soon as you dip below the surface. Equalise often – Don’t allow pressure to build up, equalise with every breath as you descend and get into the habit with every dive, soon it’ll become second nature.
Some methods work better than others for each of us so try to find out which one works best for you.
Extra Tips for Divers
Always descend feet first. Use a descent line when possible if you have ear issues. One many divers benefit from is looking up when equalising. If you feel any discomfort, stop immediately – ascend until the pressure goes away and try equalising again.
If none of the above helps here are a couple of other things you can experiment with:
1: Avoid milk products before diving as they can increase your mucus
2: Alcohol and smoking can irritate your mucus membranes – which react by
increasing mucus production which in turn blocks your ears.
So How Do You Equalise Your Ears? Here are suggestions from PADI
Tense Your Throat and Push Your Jaw Forward
(Voluntary Tubal Opening)
Use the muscles of the soft palate and throat to push the jaw forward and down as if
starting to yawn. This action can pull the Eustachian tubes open.
Pinch Your Nose and Swallow
Gently pinch your nostrils closed and swallow to open your Eustachian tubes.
Pinch Your Nose and Make the Sound of the Letter “K”
Close your nostrils, and tense the muscles in the back of your throat as if straining to lift a
weight. Then make the sound of the letter “K.” This will cause the back of your tongue to
compress air against the openings of your Eustachian tubes.
Pinch Your Nose, Blow and Swallow (Lowry Technique).
While gently pinching your nostrils closed, blow and swallow at the same time (this is a combination of Valsalva and Toynbee maneuver).
Pinch Your Nose and Blow
Pinch your nostrils (or close them against your mask skirt) and blow gently through your
nose. The resulting overpressure in the throat can force air through the Eustachian tubes.
Pinch Your Nose and Blow and Push Your Jaw Forward
Do a Valsalva maneuver while pushing the jaw forward and down (see Voluntary Tubal
Opening description above).
Taking Care of Your Ears
Don’t allow your diving trip to be ruined by an ear infection. Cleaning your ears with a
mixture of half white vinegar and half rubbing alcohol. This little trick changes the pH
balance to prevent swimmers’ ear and bacterial infections.
A few drops in each ear when you’re done diving for the day works wonders. Never use
cotton buds or small objects in your ears, your Mother was right about that!
Instead, use a hair dryer – on the lowest heat and power setting – to dry your ears properly.
Once you’ve mastered your buoyancy skills and are properly weighted ear problems are often less likely. Learning with a reputable dive centre makes all the difference too, from day one before you even get in the water equalising your ears is one of the first skills that new divers learn and that should be practiced on every single dive.