While doing some scuba diving research on proper equalization techniques I came across the following information to help you have a safe descent.
The Eustachian tubes, which connect the pharnyx (back of the mouth) to the middle ear, including the eardrum, are normally closed. It is vital to open them prior to descending in order to safely equalize the pressure inside the eardrum with the pressure outside of it. While a small increase in pressure will usually cause the tubes to open, allergies, infections or anything that causes congestion can hinder this.
Three tips to remember on your descent when trying to equalize the eardrum pressure while scuba diving:
- Start by swallowing at the surface just prior to descent as this will open the Eustachian tubes (if they are not open already).
- Once you begin your descent, equalize the Eustachian tubes every 0.5 meters/2 feet for the first 4.5 meters/15 feet, then every meter/3 ft to 10 meters/33 ft by plugging your nose and swallowing or performing a Valsalva maneuver. Of course, listen to your own body to determine if you need to equalize more frequently than this.
- After reaching the second ATA, equalize as necessary due to changes in depth (and therefore pressure).
Remember, if you have difficulty equalizing stop your descent and go up to the last depth you were able to equalize and try again making sure to equalize more often as you descend again. If you or your buddy are unable to equalize, do not dive! You might miss a day of diving, but permanent damage to the ear can mean no more diving for the rest of your life. So have fun and be safe.
Safe Diving Vancouver!