One of the first things you learn when you Scuba dive is the importance of equalizing your ears. Equalizing your ears refers to opening up the lower ends of your Eustachian tubes allowing air to enter the cavity in your ears, to counter the pressure from the outside as you dive deeper. The most common way to equalize taught to you before your first dive is known as the Valsalva maneuver. The Valsalva method teaches you to pinch your nose so that no air can pass through your nostrils, and then gently “blow” your nose. This action forces air into your inner ear space, equalizing the pressure within to the outside pressure often with an audible popping or clicking sound.
As easy as equalizing sounds, even the best of divers can have trouble equalizing once in a while on dives. So, if you’re just having one of those days here are some great tips to help get your stubborn ears to pop so you can enjoy your dive with no worries.
1. Start equalizing before you get in the water. Listen for the pop and clicking sound when your on the boat or well before a dive. Do this by swallowing or by using the valsalva method gently. Pre-pressurizing helps make equalization underwater much easier.
2. Descend feet first. It is said that the valsalva maneuver takes 50% more force when you are in a head down position rather than head up. It’s also easier to equalize when your head is closer to the surface when you first descend.
3. Equalize before you feel the need to, i.e before you feel a squeeze. The deeper you go without equalizing the harder it is to equalize cause the pressure increases more the further you go. Look up when you equalize. Extending your neck tends to open your Eustachian tubes.
4. Use a descent line. This allows you to descend at a more controlled rate and if you feel the pressure you can stop the decent quickly.
5. Ascend a little if you can’t equalize. If you are having trouble getting your ears to equalize at a certain depth, ascend a little and try again.
6. Clear your mask of any water. Water in your mask often irritates your mucus membranes causing them to produce more which clogs up your nose and sinuses. This makes equalizing more difficult. So keep water out of your mask.
7. Never dive with a head cold. Head colds can make equalization very difficult or even impossible.
8. Avoid alcohol , smoking and mucus producing foods. Foods like milk increase mucus production while tobacco and alcohol irritate your mucus membranes that can block your Eustachian tubes.
9. Try different techniques of equalization. For example try with your nostrils pinched or blocked against your mask skirt, swallowing. Swallowing pulls open your Eustachian tubes while the movement of your tongue, with your nose closed, compresses air against them.This technique is called the Toynbee maneuver. Anther thing to try is wiggling your jaw from side to side to loosen up your Eustachian tubes.
10. Never force equalization. If you just can’t get your ears to pop, don’t go further. Ascend and try a little but to be on the safer side abort the dive. The risk of damage to your ears is too high to play with, for a dive.
*image source scubamanzanillo.com