Ear problems. We’ve all had them. And we all fear that possible infection that will keep us out the water for days, maybe even longer God forbid! They can cause us to abort dives and impact our overall enjoyment of the sport. The manner of equalising can vary a lot from person to person and does not reflect on your diving ability. You should never continue descending with ear pain but before aborting a dive, try these tips that we have found extremely helpful:
- Don’t dive when congested. If you are feeling a bit blocked, don’t risk it. Moving between cold and warm climates can cause congestion. Also, be careful with air conditioning. Having your AC blasting all night can also cause congestion. Make sure that when you swallow you hear a pop in both ears. This tells you that both Eustachian tubes are open.
- Do like the yogis do and forcefully exhale through one nostril at a time every morning. This is a great way to clear passageways and to avoid congestion.
- If you haven’t dived for a while, then let your ears adjust slowly by equalising early and often. You could even gently equalise your ears every couple of minutes before the dive. It’s just like exercising any muscle; if you are diving frequently your ears will loosen and get used to equalising.
- Chew gum before a dive. Many people find this helpful as it makes you swallow often.
- Relax. Take a couple of minutes before a dive to just to relax. Being tense could make equalising more difficult.
- Move your jaw around. This will loosen up the muscles you use to equalise.
- Descend feet first. Studies have shown that the Valsalva manoeuvre (pinching your nostrils while exhaling gently) requires 50% more effort if you are in a head-down position.
- Look up while descending. Extending your neck can open your Eustachian tubes.
- If you feel a block, ascend a little. Use your dive computer to make sure you do as if your BCD is negatively buoyant you will descend.
- If all this fails, go to the surface and take a couple of minutes to relax and then try descending again as slowly as possible. If you can only go a couple of metres stay there and let your ears get accustomed before creeping down diagonally.
There is plenty more information about equalisation and we’ve outlined only a few tips here that we have found helpful. We’re curious to know your tips as well so please share them with us.