A Guide to your Ears and Scuba Diving

Our latest article on the DJL Blog is from Kim Brazil of DIVE.in. It is based on an infographic they produced concerning your ears and scuba diving. It is an extremely interesting and important bit of reading for anyone involved in scuba diving.

A Guide to your Ears and Scuba Diving

Issues with equalizing whilst on a dive can affect nearly every diver at some point in their diving career. However, did you know that approximately 89% of divers do not equalize properly? Not equalizing properly can lead to some serious issues, resulting in nearly 29% of divers having to stay out of the water for weeks or even months. It’s shocking that 6.9% of divers have caused serious damage to their ears due to their inability to equalize properly.

The usual technique that we are taught is the ‘Valsalva Maneuver,’ which is where you pinch your nostrils and blow through your nose. This results in an overpressure in your throat that forces the air up your Eustachian tubes. In some, this technique works absolutely fine if you keep the tubes open ahead of the pressure changes. However, if you don’t equalize early or often enough, the difference in pressure can result in the soft tissues forcing themselves shut, which seals off the end of the tubes, making you unable to equalize.

Three Main Issues With This Technique…

1. It does not activate muscles that open the Eustachian tubes, meaning that it won’t work if there is a pressure difference and the tubes have been locked shut.
2. It is way too easy to blow hard enough to seriously damage something.
3. Blowing against a blocked nose raises the internal fluid pressure, which includes the fluid pressure within your inner ear. This could lead to a rupture of your ‘round windows’.

5 Better Ways To Equalize

Toynbee Maneuver
Pinch your nose and swallow. When your nostrils are closed and you swallow, this pulls open the Eustachian tubes open whilst the movement of your tongue, compresses the air against them.

Lowry Technique
Pinch your nose, blow and then swallow. This is a combination of the ‘Valsalva’ and ‘Toynbee,’ where you blow and swallow at the same time.

Edmonds Technique
Pinch your nose, blow and push your jaw forward. Make sure you move the jaw forward and down at the same time as blowing gently.

Frenzel Maneuver
Pinch your nose and make the sound of the letter ‘K’. Making this movement with your mouth and tongue, forces the back of the tongue upward, pushing air up into the Eustachian tubes.

Voluntary Tubal Opening
Tense your throat and push your jaw forward. These muscles pull the Eustachian tubes open.

When To Equalize
Sooner, and more frequently than you might have thought. It is highly recommended that you equalize every 2 feet or 0.6 meters. However, sometimes this isn’t often enough.

10 Tips To Help With Equalizing

1. Listen out for the ‘pop’. Once you hear this in both ears, it’s safe to continue with your descent.
2. Start early. Begin equalizing a few hours before you are due to dive, this will help to prevent any chances of a block once you’re in the water.
3. Equalize at the surface.
4. Descend feet first.
5. Keep your head up and look up.
6. Keep equalizing before you even need to.
7. Use a descent line to help control your descent rate.
8. STOP if it hurts.
9. Keep your mask clear.
10. Avoid tobacco and alcohol.

Try out these safe and easy techniques next time you dive to avoid any future equalizing issues. You can also check out this guide for an overview of the equalizing techniques.

Kim Brazil – DIVE.in