A Few Ear Clearing Tips
Clearing your ears or equalizing the pressure in your ear canals and sinus cavity is one of the first things we learn as divers. Failure to be able to perform this critical task can typically be one of the most common causes for a diver to wind up cancelling a dive. Issues preventing a diver from being able to clear their ears are most commonly attributed to congestion but can be caused by a variety of things. Many divers will use an over the counter nasal spray or decongestant, but this can pose problems if the medication wears off at depth. Not to mention that we, as instructors, do not advise subjecting your body to unnecessary medications prior to putting your body under increased pressures that can effect the percentage of the substance in your system and have extremely adverse effects.
Some divers will turn to more mechanical means of solving these issues. They will turn to their scuba equipment for answers. One company makes an earplug that allows the diver to use it and still equalize as they change depths. The idea here is that the water won’t get in to the diver’s ears, thus aiding in keeping the cavities clear and clean and easier to equalize. There are also products call Pro Ear Masksand the Hood that goes along with it. This mask uses silicone ear cups, equalization tubes and special strap configurations to improve warmth and comfort. They advertise easier pressure equalization will equal prevention of painful ear problems. Another benefit they claim is improved hearing and sense of direction. I have never tried them, and I think I’d probably not unless I had an ear issue that I was not able to overcome by any other means. We are already enjoying one of the most equipment intense recreations there is and adding cups and tubes into my ears just seems like more places to have something go wrong. I’m a big fan of the K.I.S.S. mentality.
Here’s a piece of advice I was first given by my Course Director in my IDC some years ago after having a similar blockage that prevented me from completing a fun dive after our IE. Keep in mind that your Eustachian tube and the area inside your ear that you are trying to equalize the pressure in, is tissue. Just as we’d no sooner hop up from our computers right this moment and run a 100 meter sprint and expect our body to perform without some sort of negative and probably painful reaction, we shouldn’t expect our ears to suddenly be subjected to this forced pressure and pressure changes without some sort of similar resistance.
He advised me that in his experience, if I were to get into the habit of clearing my ears every hour or so through out the day prior to my diving, my ear canal would be a lot more accustomed to performing the task I’m asking it. Very similar to stretching before a workout or run. Medically, I cannot say whether that advice is sound for that particular part of the body, but I can attest to the fact that it was the last time I’ve experienced any ear blockage of any type in 19+ years.
It’s also advice I’ve passed on to my students and instructor candidates over the years, and to my sometimes foggy knowledge, I cannot think of a student I’ve ever had who has been forced to abort a training dive due to equalization problems.