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Long Term Perforated Eardrum...Any hopes to dive one day?

Discussion in 'Diving Medicine' started by Rod', Aug 14, 2019.

  1. Rod'

    Rod' Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Vancouver, BC
    Hello SB!

    After a traumatic accident when I was kid (got punched while underwater and almost blacked out, swallowed lots of water), I finally decided to fight my fears and try a small dive in pool to see if I could reconnect with my passion of swimming underwater, as the call for diving, meditation and exploration has been stronger and stronger these last years.

    I finally tried to do a quick dive at 4m and...ooof...the accomplishment of overcoming trauma and re-discovering such a wonderful sensation left me in tears...Resting at the bottom even for a couple of minutes...I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Like...life-changing level of love. It was like going home.

    Well...plot twist of course: I noticed bubbles coming out of my right ear as I equalized...and the left was hard to equalize as well and required lots of neck stretching. I thought at first that the hard one was damaged...but after some research realized that the "easy" one was the major problem.

    I went to the clinic and they removed a lot of bloody wax from this ear. Also noticed that I hear air flow noise when I do a dry equalization instead of a "pop", and don't feel a lot of bass in the music in this ear (-15% audition too). The medic didn't say what was wrong with the ear, just that it was "abnormal"...But I guess perforated eardrum based on the symptoms.

    I had some intense pain late April during a show, when they decided to suddenly raise the volume for the main artist...and had a bit of tinnitus since then, so I believe I could have had my eardrum damaged 3 months ago? A part of me hopes that the wax was preventing the healing and that now it will get better...But I also remember experiencing crazy pain in the same ear two years ago while immersing my head under water and epsom salts in a float tank...so the rupture could also be quite old...maybe even much, much older: this ear often gave me pain when exposed to cold air flow...could also have been a symptom.

    I do not have any pain and never experienced vertigo though.

    I am waiting to get the reference for an ENT, ideally one that knows a bit about diving. But I am trying to prepare myself to grieve (or not) my newly discovered passion. It is quite stressful. So in the process I was curious if some people here had similar experience, fixed it and how, and was able to dive after that and if so, what to expect in terms of depth/limitations. And if they could not dive again, how they coped with it and if there are other sports/activities that could be as rewarding and peaceful.

    Thank you :)
  2. rsingler

    rsingler Scuba Instructor, Tinkerer in Brass ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Napa, California
    Yes, you can get a chronic perforation "repaired" with a paper patch that theoretically allows your eardrum to seal up, using the patch as a lattice-work to heal. Hard to estimate how long that would take to heal, or how sturdy it would be. But we do it with some frequency for persistent perfs (I'm not an ENT).
    But sounds like you have other competing traumas, e.g., "during a show", so you may have some life choices to make re: your hearing.
    Best of luck with your ENT consult! A solution is not out of the question...
    Zef and chillyinCanada like this.
  3. Duke Dive Medicine

    Duke Dive Medicine Medical Moderator Staff Member

    Hi @Rod' ,

    It sounds like you have a twofold problem: a chronic TM perforation in one ear and difficulty equalizing in the other. The solutions will also be different. Ditto @rsingler on the TM repair; they can be done, but whether that's appropriate for you will be up to your ENT physician. For the difficulty equalizing the other ear, the ENT will be able to tell you if you have some kind of Eustachian tube dysfunction, but it also could be related to technique, allergies, acute viral infection, or some other source of inflammation.

    *This is not an endorsement of a product* but FYI there is a diving mask called a Pro-Ear that has specially designed cups that go over your ears and keep water out, with tubes that connect them to the main part of the mask for equalization of the external ear canal. This may be an option if your TM can't be repaired. Again, not an endorsement, do your homework as to whether it could work for you, but wanted to at least make sure you knew it was out there.

    Best regards,
    outofofficebrb likes this.
  4. Rod'

    Rod' Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Vancouver, BC
    Thank you for your replies!

    Researching the surgery, it seems like quite a long and annoying experience but it might be worth it if it can make my life better, or even allow diving.
    For the other ear, I noticed that I am often congested on the same side, so maybe some cleaning spray might be enough.
    But yes, it sounds like I will just have to cross my fingers. I'll make sure I talk to the ENT about the Pro-Ear as well.

    I'll give updates here for people curious about the topic.
    Norwegian Cave Diver likes this.
  5. Norwegian Cave Diver

    Norwegian Cave Diver Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Calgary Alberta Canada

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