Your Ears While Scuba Diving

While I have been under the weather and not under the water I’ve been researching ear issues and how they relate to diving since one of my issues has been inflammation of the eustachian tubes and congestion.
While I found several good articles on my issues I also found some great information on your ears and diving, specifically equalization. If you don’t read any of this I HIGHLY recommend you at least watch the video by Dr. Edmmond Kay.

Valsalva Maneuver: This is the method most divers learn. Pinch your nose and gently blow through your nose. The resulting overpressure in your throat usually forces air up your Eustachian tubes. The Valsalva maneuver has three problems: It does not activate muscles which open the Eustachian tubes, so it may not work if the tubes are already locked by a pressure differential. It’s all too easy to blow hard enough to damage something and If delayed will become difficult to equalize if not impossible. With the valsalva the key is equalize early and often.

Toynbee Maneuver: With your nose pinched, swallow. Swallowing pulls open your Eustachian tubes while the movement of your tongue, with your nose closed, compresses air against them. Swallowing can be difficult for the novice diver, especially while breathing dry air. This technique is not recommended for rapid descent, as there is no margin for error if the Eustachian tube does not equalize on first effort. If a middle ear squeeze is already occurring, it will be more difficult for the Eustachian tube to be pulled open.

Lowery Technique: A combination of Valsalva and Toynbee. While closing your nose, blow and swallow at the same time. This technique is very effective once it is mastered.

Edmonds Technique: While tensing the soft palate (the soft tissue at the back of the roof of your mouth) and throat muscles and pushing the jaw forward and down, do a Valsalva or Frenzel maneuver or combine a head tilt with a Valsalva or Frenzel maneuver to more effectively open the Eustachian tube.

Frenzel Maneuver: Pinch your nose and close the back of your throat as if straining to lift a weight. Then make the sound of the letter “K.” This forces the back of your tongue upward, compressing air against the openings of your Eustachian tubes.
A diver may practice the technique by watching the nose inflate and by watching the “Adams Apple” move up and down. This technique is that can be done anytime during the respiratory cycle while the effort is usually brief and can be repeated may times quickly.

Voluntary Tubal Opening: Tense the muscles of the soft palate and the throat while pushing the jaw forward and down as if starting to yawn. These muscles pull the Eustachian tubes open. This requires a lot of practice, but some divers can learn to control those muscles and hold their tubes open for continuous equalization.
Practice Makes Perfect Divers who experience difficulty equalizing may find it helpful to master several techniques. Many are difficult until practiced repeatedly, but this is one scuba skill you can practice anywhere. Try practicing in front of a mirror so you can watch your throat muscles.
When To Equalize Sooner, and more often, than you might think. Most authorities recommend equalizing every two feet of descent. At a fairly slow descent rate of 60 feet per minute, that’s an equalization every two seconds. Many divers descend much faster and should be equalizing constantly.

The good news: as you go deeper, you’ll have to equalize less often-another result of Boyle’s Law. For example, a descent of six feet from the surface will compress your middle ear space by 20 percent and produce pain. But from 30 feet you’d have to descend another 12.5 feet to get the same 20 percent compression.

Dive safe.