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How To Equalize Your Ears Underwater

   August 22nd, 2023   Posted In: How-To   Tags:

Top Ways on How to Equalize Your Ears!

Have you ever dove to the bottom of a swimming pool or driven up a mountain and felt pressure on your ears? Well, a similar experience happens when you SCUBA dive. Below are a few ways to equalize your ears underwater so that you can enjoy this exciting sport!

Equalize Your Ears By Pinching Your Nose

Perhaps the easiest and most common way to equalize your ears underwater is to pinch your nose and blow gently. Blowing gently is the key. You do not want to have a forceful blow or you could risk blowing an eardrum. Looking up while pinching your nose and blowing also helps open up the eustachian tubes for easier clearing.

Wiggle Your Jaw

Many people wiggle their jaw to equalize their ears underwater. This is very helpful if your hands are full with cameras or something else. This is also great if you wear a full-face mask. Simply make a yawning motion while moving the jaw. Sometimes looking up also helps.

Slow Descent

With either of the above options, a slow descent is also important. Divers that complain they can’t equalize their ears before feeling pain usually descend way too fast. On descent, just let a little bit of air out of you BCD and descend slowly, giving your ears time to equalize. Proper buoyancy control is key to controlling your descent. I also find that sometimes you can swim in a circular pattern going deeper and deeper and eventually your ears will equalize.

how to equalize your ears

Help! I Can’t Equalize My Ears Underwater

If your ears are not clearing, stop your descent immediately! Ascend a few feet and try to equalize your ears again. Keep doing this until they clear and you can continue downward. Do NOT keep descending if you cannot equalize your ears. This is a great way to blow an eardrum!

If you have tried both of the above methods for equalizing your ears underwater and nothing works, then there are a few things to consider.

1. Do you have allergies?

Allergies are a part of life and can create immense sinus pressure upon descending for a dive. However, many people are able to dive safely with allergies. You should consult with your doctor about certain nasal sprays that may benefit you in being able to equalize your ears while diving.

2. Do you have a cold? 

If you have a cold, you should NOT dive. Equalizing your ears and sinuses underwater becomes nearly impossible when diving with a cold. Do NOT try to take medicine for your cold and go diving. If you try to use medications to dive with a cold, they could wear off while diving and create a reverse block on the way up, making it very difficult to ascend. Also, many times medications still don’t clear everything up making it very difficult to equalize on the way down. Just don’t dive with a cold. Rest up and live to dive another day.

3. Did you have nasal surgery?

Sometimes any kind of nasal surgery, especially if it was recent, can affect your ability to equalize. It is best to consult with your doctor to see if there is something that can be done to help you equalize while diving and to make sure that you are medically cleared to dive.

4. Is something else wrong?

If none of the above apply to you and you are still struggling to equalize your ears underwater, then there might be something wrong with your ears that you are unaware of. You should consult your doctor and have them examine your ears. It might be a quick fix!

A Big Misconception About Equalizing Your Ears

Perhaps the biggest misconception about equalizing your ears underwater is this statement: “I have trouble equalizing my ears in shallow water so it will only be worse when I go deeper.” This is a myth! This statement is wrong due to physics. The biggest change in pressure happens in the first 33 feet of water when the pressure increases from 1 to 2 atmospheres.

It is similar to the effect on your buoyancy when wearing a wetsuit. The SCUBA diving wetsuit will compress more in the first 33 feet of water so you have to adjust your buoyancy frequently in this depth range. Once you get through this initial span of water, the pressure changes are not as great and you can dive as deep as your training allows with minor buoyancy adjustments and hopefully little to no ear trouble on the way down.

Equalize Ears Properly

SCUBA diving is an exciting sport that defies science and allows you to breathe underwater! Unfortunately, not everyone is going to be able to SCUBA dive if there is an inability to equalize the ears while underwater. The ears are something not to be messed with. They need to equalize while SCUBA diving. Be careful and dive safely!

Candace is an avid scuba diver and freelance writer with a PhD in Biomedicine. She has been diving since 2002 and is currently a PADI IDC Staff Instructor. When she is not instructing, she enjoys writing about scuba and volunteering at the local aquarium where she dives with the sharks!

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