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Ear Equalization Problems

Discussion in 'New Divers and Those Considering Diving' started by Amersboo, Jul 25, 2011.

  1. Amersboo

    Amersboo Guest

    My husband and I are attempting to get our SSI Certification. We did our first pool training session today and went under 10 feet. I went down very slowly each time and the first time, I didn't equalize my ears very well. They hurt horribly the entire time I was under water. From that point on, they ached and hurt and I heard a lot of high pitched sounds, along with not being able to hear voices all that well. It has faded and now I have a dull ache in both ears. I've popped them quite a bit and that seemed to help some, but I don't like the dull ache going on.

    I told my instructor about this and she said to just put drops of hydrogen peroxide in each year. I told her that they hurt quite a bit.. but she didn't seem overly concerned. The thing is, I am concerned!! My ears hurt like hell right now and tomorrow we do pool training 2. I don't think I could really stand them hurting much more than they do now.

    The thing is, I had a physical before we did this and the doctor found nothing wrong with my ears. But truth be told, I've always had issues with my ears. I'm either dizzy or they feel full of wax/gunk. Should I do pool training session #2 tomorrow or postpone? :(

    Mind you, this is my first time attempting to dive... eep!
  2. Bubbletrubble

    Bubbletrubble Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Seussville
    Your instructor is giving you poor advice.
    Hydrogen peroxide drops will do nothing to help with middle ear barotrauma, which is almost certainly what you have.
    In fact, such caustic drops might end up irritating the external auditory canal -- doing more harm than good.
    With your ears in their current condition, you should not be diving. Postpone the rest of your class.
    If you were to proceed with the class as scheduled, you could easily damage your ear structures even more...and then you might not be able to dive for months (or longer). Suffice it to say that your health is far more important than adhering to a silly class schedule.

    In the short-term, to help you deal with the pain/pressure in your ears, you can take NSAIDs (e.g., ibuprofen) for pain relief and possibly an OTC decongestant (e.g., pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine) to deal with the middle ear congestion.
    If your ears seem to be getting worse, I would recommend seeing your physician.

    Getting back to the cause of the ear pain...you probably injured your ears that first time you descended without equalizing sufficiently. From that point on, you were fighting a losing battle.
    I think some ear education is in order. Click on the link in my sig. Dr. Kay's lecture is a worthwhile watch.
    Poke around on his website and you'll find a webpage which describes the various ear equalization techniques. There are several. Try all of them. Find out what technique works best for you. As one datapoint, the standard pinch-the-nose-and-blow (Valsalva) method never worked that well for me. YMMV.

    A diver using proper ear equalization technique will never feel any ear pain. In fact, I only feel a slight pressure during descent. For a beginner, it can be helpful to hold onto something during the descent so that you can gain proficiency in ear equalization without the added task-loading of managing buoyancy.

    Hope this helps...
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2011
    1fast05 likes this.
  3. 1fast05

    1fast05 Solo Diver

    Bubbletrubble said it all. As a hyperbaric tech and active diver I see people using improper techniques to equalize quite frequently. The Valsalva is one of the more "dangerous" techniques to use as it is easy to over-pressure your middle ear and cause issues such as you described. Also if you don't equalize often enough it is very easy to reach a pressure that pinches of the eustation tube and can prevent you from equalizing. The phrase "equalize early and often" is said/should be said a lot during your classes. As bubble pointed out you should postpone the dive and if the ear problems persist make an appointment with an ENT to make sure that no issues are present.
  4. snowdog

    snowdog Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Dallas
    Keys to Ear Equalization:
    "Equalize early and often", avoid “Improper techniques”, get more Practice
    When all else fails, or as 1fast05 said, make an appointment with an ENT to make sure that no other issues are present.
  5. DivemasterDennis

    DivemasterDennis DivemasterDennis ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Lakewood, Colorado
    I think quite a few people do not get equalization techniques properly. They may be overly concerned with ear squeeze, or over sensitive, and therefore "over equalize" with a counterproductive result. Here are some things to try when you dive next:

    1. Exhale through your nose
    2. wiggle your jaw
    3. tip your head from side to side, or if horizontal, roll from side to side
    4. swallow while doing #3
    5. Descend slowly
    6. If you feel excessive pressure, ascend a little until it abates, then commence the decent again
    7. My wife and I take a single sudafed little red pill 1 hour before diving and find that makes equalizing easier. Use only if other techniques don't work.
    6. As you dive more and relax more, equalizing in fact becomes easier.
    Don't push diving when ears give you pain. Pain and pressure are two different things. When I have pain, I know it and have to go shallow until I can clear.
  6. BabyDuck

    BabyDuck Orca

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Winterville, NC
    there's an excellent thread somewhere with lots of different techniques. valsalva works for me, but i think one you could use as search is the frenzel technique. a friend of mine only has to sort of jut out his lower jaw. stop your class for now, i think bubbletrouble's on the right track with his advice, and read up on lots of different techniques. try them in the tub - it won't be the only stupid-looking thing you do in the name of diving!
  7. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many.

    # of Dives:
    Location: Woodinville, WA
    BubbleTrubble, as usual, has nailed it. DON'T try to dive again until the discomfort is gone! Middle ear barotrauma is generally just annoying, but you CAN do permanent damage to the structures of the inner ear, and end up with hearing loss or vertigo. The instructor who gave you the advice to use drops does not understand the difference between external otitis (infection of the outer ear canal) and barotrauma -- many divers are confused about this, but an instructor really ought to know better.

    Once your discomfort has resolved, you can play with the various equalization techniques (HERE is a site discussing some of them) on land, and see what works for you. Don't get in the water until you can reliable pressurize your ears on land -- nothing gets BETTER underwater.
  8. gypsyjim

    gypsyjim I have an alibi ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: capitol region of New York
  9. Amersboo

    Amersboo Guest

    Thanks so much for the tips guys! I called the Scuba place and postponed until next week. I DID see a GP about my ears and she said that everything looked fine, other than a little water. But I don't want to risk it with the pain that I am having. It's still bugging me! With all that I am hearing - I don't want to damage anything. What a nightmare that would be! Thank you for the great tips on equalizing as I am descending.

    I think my biggest problem is that I'm completely new to buoyancy and I feel completely out of control. I'm sure everyone has been there - but it's tough to remember to equalize with everything else going on! I also feel that everyone is getting to the bottom much faster than I am. I DO have pretty bad allergies so I will look into the sudafed before diving. This should help clear those passages. There are times when I'm even on a plane and can't equalize my ears, so this might be a problem I have before each dive.

    I do find that rolling my head back and forth and swallowing at the same time sure does help! I'll remember to try these different techniques. I just hope diving gets a bit easier with time. I am VERY sensitive about my ears and this kind of makes me feel a bit down trot about the whole thing. I'm grateful to hear of other people who have experienced the same issues with equalization.

    Babyduck, I had to laugh when you said to try the techniques in the tub. Good idea!! Trust me, I couldn't feel like I look anymore stupid at this point. About 2 minutes into the pool training I was laying at the bottom of the pool due to not inflating the BC a bit to get neutral... so I'm flipping/flapping around at the bottom of the pool without remembering the inflator button. Every time I think about it I start cracking up!
  10. gypsyjim

    gypsyjim I have an alibi ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: capitol region of New York
    :rofl3: There may be divers who were so natural that they never had any buoyancy, or other issue, but I certainly have never dived with them! maybe a few who might have tried to make trhat claim, but.....:no:

    Even the most experienced diver has occasional "issues", that he/she hopes none of his buddies have witnessed. Every dive is a learning experience, and mistakes can be very good learning tools.

    Sunday I dived an entirely new gear configuration (at least for me), and there was not a minute of that dive I am proud of. But I did learn a thing or two. I say never be afraid to experiment, and learn, and use every single time in the water as a chance to improve your knowledge and skills.

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