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Diving with ear tubes

Discussion in 'Divers with Disabilities' started by Tatufairy, Mar 19, 2011.

  1. Tatufairy

    Tatufairy Guest

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Central Florida
    I had to have tubes placed in my ears last October. I have to wear ear plugs even when I take a shower. My ears naturally equalize now but I need to find an ear plug that I can dive with. Does anyone know where I can get custom fit ear plugs that may be vented or that I can dive with?
  2. pasley

    pasley Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Lakewood, CA
    NOT A DOCTOR or other expert. Opinion only

    Assuming you get clearance from your doctor to SCUBA dive using a vented earplug to equalize the pressrue between the plug and eardrum here is a quote from the DAN website http://www.diversalertnetwork.org/medical/articles/article.asp?articleid=33
    [QUOTE...]As for the use of earplugs, opinions differ on their use in scuba diving. In general, they are not recommended. However, some divers use earplugs in special situations. Divers should also know special considerations before trying them. We asked several referral doctors for DAN to address this issue; we also discussed it with a doctor who created vented earplugs that some divers endorse.

    Dr. Allen Dekelboum, an ENT and DAN consulting physician in California, reiterated the common view that earplugs create an air pocket in the ear canal, preventing equalization and resulting in differences in the pressure between the water and a diver's ear canal. This situation could lead to serious injury, he said.

    "With an intact tympanic membrane, the increasing water pressure against the earplug and the decreasing volume of air between the plug and the tympanic membrane would have a tendency to drive the plug against the TM," Dekelboum said. "The increasing water pressure also could wedge the plug in the ear canal. If this occurs, there is risk of external ear barotrauma."

    To address these concerns, some manufacturers promote the vented earplug, which has a small hole for venting between the water and the ear canal. The holes typically have a valve for pressurization without letting water enter the ear canal.

    Dr. Robert Scott, creator of Doc's Proplugs, said his vented earplugs are safe for divers to use. It has one chief advantage, he said: "They make pressurization easier."

    Most manufacturers of vented plugs emphasize the ease at which their products equalize. Doc's Proplugs website (http://www.proplugs.com) recommends that divers, to maintain proper pressurization, clear their ears frequently while wearing the earplugs. According to the website, those having trouble clearing with the plugs should check if earwax is pushing against the plug vent or blocking the canal. The website also says that if the vent is fouled by debris while a diver descends, it is best to remove the Proplug, and if it is fouled during ascent, there is no problem: the air and water under pressure can escape around the Proplug. ...


    Alternate product is mask wiht a ear cover that runs a tube from the mask to the ear to equalize and keep the ear dry. http://www.amazon.com/Protection-Snorkel-Snorkeling-Protects-infection/dp/B0021P72UI That would be the a possibility but again if it leaks you are in trouble.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2011
  3. rkj1969

    rkj1969 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Guam
  4. DocVikingo

    DocVikingo Senior Member

  5. John C. Ratliff

    John C. Ratliff Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Beaverton, Oregon
    This was also covered in 2009 on this forum, in a thread titled "Diving with Vent Tubes." In it, I posted about a bit different concept titled the "Scuba Queen" years ago, which is still available. It is a hood with ear caps.

    The mask above would also be a great answer to this. I would be leary of "vented" ear plugs, as it might be possible for a malfunction of the vent, and then the ear plugs would be driven deeply into the ear canal.

  6. hbhobby

    hbhobby Solo Diver

    if you have tympanostomy tubes, which is what it sounds like you have, you would not ear plugs that are vented. you would want a solid plug that would keep all water out. I would recommend going to a DAN affiliated ENT specalist and they can make you custom plugs that will be much more comfortable and give you a better seal

    (these are mearly my opinions and I recommend you ALWAYS get advise from your personal physician when dealing with any health care questions)
  7. texarkandy

    texarkandy Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Texarkana, TX
    Tatufairy ..... I have had a perforated eardrum for the past 18 months that hais been freakishly slow to close ... the ENT says the hole is smaller than an eartube now, but may never close without surgery.

    It's an inconvenient time for me to have surgery right now, but I've had it with not being able to dive, so this past week I bought a Pro-Ear mask (this is not a plug for Pro-Ears) which has earcups to cover your ears. The earcups each have a tube that connects to the face portion of the mask to keep pressure equalized with your face, sinuses, and ultimately the other side of your eardrum. More importantly ... it keeps water out of your outer ear & thus out of your middle ear if you have tubes or a perforation. Of course the seal could fail on the earcups resulting in water getting into your middle ear (bad) & almost guaranteed risk of infection. This is the "Mickey Mouse" mask some people have described ... I have found no other company that makes one.

    I spent two hours with them this week at the bottom of my pool scrubbing black algae :( and no leaks. I do sometimes get a loud squeaky door sound in the ear with the perforation. I will be trying them out in open water tomorrow and will post how that works out for me. I'll post a report on another thread on here I've commented on re: Pro Ears.

    I notice the Pro-Ear website & literature pointedly does not mention using them for tubes in one's ears or perforations (probably for liability purposes) but I have read of others using them for tubes in their ears. My ENT looked them over & said go ahead & give them a try .... he's not a "dive medicine" ENT though.

    Mind you ... all my diving is of the recreational kind and no deeper than 60 feet (usually in the 20 to 40 foot range) .... I certainly wouldn't use them for any deep or advanced diving.
    Further, I would not use earplugs of any kind for this condition. I'm not a medical person, much less formally schooled in any kind of dive medicine, but that's just my 2 psi for what it's worth (or not)
  8. DocVikingo

    DocVikingo Senior Member

    Hi bhobby,

    You can't really be serious about this recommendation, can you? Have you read what other responders have have posted, e.g., pasley on 03.20.11?

    Solid/un-vented plugs can be used to keep water out of the ears when showering or swimming, but never when diving. At depth they would not only prevent equalization of the ears, but could be driven far into the external auditory canal. They could result in both external and middle ear barotrauma.

    There's not a reputable diving medicine ENT in the world who would recommend this for SCUBA. It is very irresponsible advice as regards diving.


  9. hbhobby

    hbhobby Solo Diver

    as long as you have tympanostomy tubes in place you would equalize be able to equalize through the TM tube hole (I actually discussed this very issue with a DAN certified ENT and he agreed that with tympanostomy tubes you can only dive with solid plugs or one of the air ear mask things) but like I said earlier I recommed that you get advise from a DAN certified ENT (like I did) before you do anything. I am not a doctor I just play one at work all day long so what do I know? oh just a few years of medical school may have given me some insight to some stuff!
  10. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many. Rest in Peace

    It seems to me that you would never want a solid plug with an intact TM. But with tubes? If you equalize the middle ear, it should also equalize the space between the TM and the plug. What would worry me would be that, on ascent, it might be easier for the pressure to extrude the plug than to exit via the Eustachian tube, and then you'd have sea water in the ear, which you do NOT want if the TM is not intact.

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