According to a survey undertaken by the team at Divein.com, almost 90 per cent of divers don’t equalize the right way, leaving them vulnerable to diving ear injuries. Twenty nine per cent of divers had to stay out of the water for weeks, or even months, due to ear problems causing by poor equalizing. In addition, over 6 per cent of divers have gotten permanent ear damage due to problems with equalizing. It’s time to take a look at what we’re doing wrong and find a new way to equalize that’s right for you.
Whilst most of us were taught the best way to equalize is to pinch your nostrils and blow through your nose (the Valsalva Manoeuvre), it might not be the best way to equalize your ears.
Yes – this method works well, but only if you keep your tubes open before the pressure changes.
If you don’t equalize early or often enough, that pressure difference can push soft tissues together, which close the ends of tubes.
When you then push air over those tissues it just locks the tubes shut.
Thankfully there are some great alternative equalizing methods. As with any new skill, it’s a good idea to practice a few times and see which works best for you.
With your nostrils pinched or blocked against your mask skirt, swallow. This pulls open your Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat, and compresses air against them.
This combination of Valsalva and Toynbee works well. Whilst your nostrils are closed, blow into your nose and swallow at the same time.
Tense the soft tissue at the back of the roof of your mouth (the soft palate) and throat muscles. Then push the jaw forwards and down and do a Valsalva manoeuvre.
Close your nose and the back of your throat. Then make the sound of the letter ‘K’. This move forces the back of your tongue up, pushing air against your Eustachian tubes.
Tense the soft palate and throat whilst pushing your jaw forwards and down – as if you’re starting to yawn. This makes the Eustachian tubes open. Voluntary Tubal Opening requires practice but you can learn to control those muscles in time and hold your Eustachian tubes open for continuous equalization. Whichever method you choose, remember to equalize often during your descent to fully protect your ears.
Before you even start diving, make sure you can hear a pop or click in both ears when you swallow. This ensures both Eustachian tubes are open.
Start equalizing your ears every few minutes from a few hours before you dive. This is a great way to reduce the chances of a block during the early stages of your descent.
This is a great way to help you get through the first meter or so of your descent when you’re busy dumping air and organising yourself. Make sure you equalize gently and see if this works for you.
Air rises in your Eustachian tubes and fluid drains downwards. Being in a head-up position makes it a lot easier to equalize and with less force needed.
This opens your Eustachian tubes and helps you equalize.
This is a great way to control your descent so you can focus on a slow descent with continuous equalization.
This is key to prevent problems, so stay ahead of the game and equalize often.
Do not try pushing through pain. If your ears begin to hurt, ascend a few feet and try equalizing again. No dive is worth it if the result is a barotrauma.
Both irritate mucus membranes, which can cause more mucus to be produced that blocks your Eustachian tubes.
Water in your mask and up your nose can irritate mucus membranes, which then blocks Eustachian tubes. The best way to keep your mask free of water is to ensure it fits properly.