We all occasionally have a problem clearing the ears. Here are ten tips for easy equalisation which should reduce any problems significantly.
Before you even board the boat, make sure that when you swallow you hear a ‘pop’ or ‘click’ in both ears. This tells you both Eustachian tubes are open.
Several hours before your dive, begin gently equalising your ears every few minutes. “This has great value and is said to help reduce the chances of a block early on descent,” says Dr. Ernest S. Campbell, webmaster of ‘Diving Medicine Online.’ “Chewing gum between dives seems to help.” adds Dr. Campbell.
‘Pre-pressurising’ at the surface helps get you past the critical first few feet of descent, where you’re often busy with dumping your BCD and clearing your mask. It may also inflate your Eustachian tubes so they are slightly bigger. The guide here is to pre-pressure only if it seems to help you – and to pressure gently.
Air tends to rise up your Eustachian tubes, and fluid-like mucus tends to drain downward. Studies have shown a Valsalva manoeuvre requires 50% more force when you’re in a head-down position than head-up.
It seems so obvious as most divers will be looking down on descent, but looking up extends your neck tends to open your Eustachian tubes.
Pulling yourself down an anchor or mooring line helps control your descent rate more accurately. Without a line, your descent rate will probably accelerate much more than you realise. A line also helps you stop your descent quickly if you feel pressure, before barotrauma has a chance to occur.
Equalise often, trying to maintain a slight positive pressure in your middle ears.
Don’t try to push through any pain. Your Eustachian tubes are probably locked shut by pressure differential, and the only result will be barotrauma. If your ears begin to hurt, ascend a few metres and try equalising again.
Both tobacco smoke and alcohol irritate your mucous membranes, promoting more mucus that can block your Eustachian tubes.
Water up your nose can irritate your mucous membranes, which then produce more of the stuff that clogs.
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