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WARNING: Don't use ear plugs!

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by daniel1948, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. daniel1948

    daniel1948 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Spokane, WA
    It was my own fault, and I admit that right at the start. It was stupid and I admit that also. So please don't tell me I was stupid. I know it already. I should have realized that if nobody I know dives with ear plugs, and if the dive shop where I inquired, and eventually bought them, said they knew nobody who used ear plugs, and had to special-order them because they didn't carry them, then ear plugs were a bad idea. But the advertisement in a dive mag said they were perfectly safe for scuba diving, and allowed equalization without hindrance. And I hate the feeling of water in my ears after a dive, so I bought them. I carried them around with me for some time before I finally got up the courage to try them on about my third day on the Nekton Pilot (the trip I just returned from).

    FWIW, I have always used Scopolamine patches for seasickness, and though dizziness is one of the side effects, I had never experienced dizziness while in the water with the patch, though I have always had the patch on while diving, and also while snorkeling. So I have a lot of experience with the Scopolamine, without any problems.

    On the fateful day I put on the Doc's ProPlugs earplugs and went for a dive. I was able to equalize without too much difficulty. Maybe a little slower than usual, but some days I am kind of slow going down. Once or twice I experienced some discomfort, but that was not entirely outside my experience. I halted my descent, cleared again, and was able to continue down.

    Then at about 50 fsw suddenly I began to feel very dizzy and everything began to spin. I immediately halted my descent, waited until I caught my buddy's eye, signaled trouble, ear, thumb-up, and began a slow ascent. My buddy soon caught up with me. The vertigo continued, and I continued my ascent, rather disoriented. After some distance (maybe 10 feet, maybe 20, I am not sure) I heard a brief sudden release of air. I thought maybe my regulator had gone kaput, but air kept flowing. I had only been in the water a few minutes, maybe ten at most, possibly as little as five, and I was still very dizzy and concerned that I might pass out, so I skipped my safety stop. At the surface I was feeling seasick, something which I had not experienced yet on this trip, since the Scopolamine is very effective for me. Back on the boat I stripped off my wet suit and went to my cabin, where I went for the Ear-Dry, which I have used after every dive since my Cozumel trip.

    But the instant the Ear-Dry hit my ear I experienced an excruciating level-10 pain. I immediately jumped into the shower and ran fresh water into my ear to try to rinse out the drops. That helped, but I still was in pain. My hearing was normal, and the consensus of the boat captain and instructors was that I had not broken my ear drum. I took two ibuprufin and after a few hours the pain had gradually disappeared. At the urging of the captain, I geared up and jumped in again, but the minute the sea water hit my ear, I was in pain. Less than from the Ear-Dry, but severe. I got right back out again.

    I stayed out of the water for 24 hours after that, and then went in again with just mask, fins, and snorkel to "test the water" as it were. This time the sea water did not hurt at all, but when I tried a few free dives to maybe 10 feet, the pressure hurt, and the pain continued even after I surfaced. A few hours later, again at the urging of the captain, I went in with scuba gear and one of the instructors for a buddy, and just descended the line very slowly to the 15-foot hang bar, waited a few moments, and then slowly ascended. I experienced no discomfort at all, so then we made a dive without incident. The following day I resumed normal diving, though taking special care to descend and ascend even slower than normal and equalize carefully, and I experienced no further problems. Even the Ear-Dry did not hurt any more.

    Apparently I had some inflammation or irritation as a result of the Doc's Pro-Plugs ear plugs, but no major or lasting damage. However, I consider myself very lucky, since I imagine the damage could have been worse, and the vertigo could have had more serious consequences.

    I offer this account, at the risk of ridicule, for the benefit of anyone else who may have seen the advertisement for "scuba-safe" ear plugs and who might possibly be considering their use.

    Let this be a warning: Do not use ear plugs for scuba, even though they claim to be special plugs for scuba and safe for diving.

  2. TMHeimer

    TMHeimer Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Dartmouth,NS,Canada(Eastern Passage-Atlantic)
    I read with interest. I have used Doc's often, with and without my 7 mil hood and to various depths without any problems. Anyone else have a bad experience?
  3. Scott

    Scott Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
    OUCH sorry to hear about the difficulty. I've never used them but have seen them LDS's
    Hopefully you purchased the ones for diving (vented) and not just for swiming, snorkeling or surfing..non vented
    Hopefully you purchased the right size.
    Also from their site
  4. diver 85

    diver 85 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: SW Louisiana
    I remember being told this back in 1985........guess that was good advice, then & now......
  5. Damselfish

    Damselfish Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boston
    Sorry you had a bad experience. No ridicule, but you are making a rather broad statement. I've used the vented Proplugs for years with great success and it seems like many other people have too. I also wonder if you got the right ones.

    BTW, hating the feeling of water in your ears after a dive isn't a reason to use these, since they don't stop water from entering in your ears. If they did, that certainly would be a problem.
  6. scubapatton

    scubapatton Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Ventura County, CA, USA
    Ouch.. great write-up, but would recommend divers to realize different people have different reactions. I have dove with VENTED Pro-plugs a number of times and have never had an issue with equalizing. As a precaution though I have always pierced the proplugs with a warmed stitch needle to make sure the vented hole was in deed open. I bought a pair years back that (assume through manufacturing) did not have an open hole in the plug, though it should have. The needle trick was recommended to me by my LDS and I use that trick whenever I buy a new pair.

    Seeing as you had issues, props to you for recognizing a concern and ending the dive. The captain was a bit aggressive in getting you back in the water in my mind (unless they, or someone else on the boat, was a qualified medic)... Happy to hear you are still diving. My wife's mom recommended the rubbing alcohol dilution for sitting in the ear a few minutes to clear out the ear canal and that helps a lot too. I still get water in the ears using the plugs, but it is limited... And that helps when multi-diving days on end...

    Again, happy to hear you are OK, but I caution divers form just tossing out their plugs, or the thought of using them because of your recent experience...
  7. mts0628

    mts0628 Manta Ray

    Double Post. Sorry. mts
  8. mts0628

    mts0628 Manta Ray

    Hey daniel1948:

    If I were you, I'd probably see my local Physician or an Ear, Nose, and Throat Physician; just because you have no pain doesn't mean everything is ok. I ruptured an eardrum and it hurt like a MoFo, but afterwards doing nothing, it was ok. But like you, sometimes when something hit it, WOW! Pain. I was laid up for 6 weeks while everything got back to normal and now Physician's can't tell my eardrum was ever perforated.

    I will have to say, that was pretty gutsy continuing to dive after experiencing something like that, or even just pressure testing it. I have never been anywhere where I would rather suffer some form of debilitating injury in order to continue a great trip. With that said, get a checkup now that you're home and hope for the best. Good luck and lesson learned for all of you who use earplugs underwater. Thanks.

    With kind regards,
  9. tridacna

    tridacna ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: New Jersey
    You were not stupid. I've used them for years with no ill effects. I used them in shallow and deep dives (180+). Never had a problem. I would see an ENT experienced in dive medicine.
  10. ljdiver

    ljdiver Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: La Jolla, CA
    Interesting...though I have never scuba dove with vented proplugs I do occasionally use them free diving (max 25-35ft) and always throw them on when I surf or swim. I wonder what exactly was happening. Is there any possibility of allergic reaction to something? (I'm guessing that wasn't the case)

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