One of the most common problems beginners have when they start diving is not being able to equalize the pressure in their ears. Several Discover Scuba Divers give up because they say their ears hurt and many instructors don’t have extra time to spend making sure every diver goes down.
As an instructor I never had an issue with this until I got a barotrauma during a free dive here in St. Maarten (don’t worry I am going to leave all the breath-hold posts to my man-cakes Marc Fourie who is a much better freediver than I am). Now with my own experiences and the help of other professionals I work with here are my top 5 ear tips for new and experienced divers.
- Take your time! Most divers rush to the bottom too quickly and don’t give their bodies time to adjust to the pressure or the stress of diving. Especially if this is your first dive in a while the slower you go the better.
- Try all different methods. The most common way is to pinch your nose and gently blow against your blocked nostrils. Other ways to try are by moving your jaw back and forth and swallow.
- Tilt your head from side to side. Normally people have a problem with one ear and not both. One of my favorite ways to try to solve this is to lean your head AWAY from that ear and try the pinch and blow again. The movement of tilting your head opens up some space to the Eustachian tubes and makes it easier to clear the blocked space.
- Go back up one arm length. Not all the way to the surface. Go up just a little bit and try all the different methods again. Sometimes this will alleviate the pressure and you will be able to continue down the rest of the way.
- If you suffer from chronic ear problems when you dive, you can try using a decongestant the night before you dive. **This is not recommended for people who are trying to dive with a cold and I don’t recommend you take it directly before a dive. Doing either of these can result in a reverse block as you ascend. (This means you can clear on the way down but become blocked again on the way up. The only way to resolve the pain from this is wait for the trapped air to make its way out).** But if taken properly a decongestant can help open air spaces and if you combine this with the tips above it may help your descent.