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How to Prevent Ear Injuries by Equalizing Pressure While Diving

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Equalizing pressure while diving is essential to prevent ear injuries such as infections or the dreaded barotrauma.

It is a fact: pressure compresses gases. In the body, we have different airspaces. The one in our lungs is compensated by breathing. The other ones in our frontal sinuses, nasal sinuses, and ears are not so easy to compensate, we will see why in today’s article. In addition, we collect the tips offered by PADI and DAN so you won’t have any problems equalizing pressure.

Equalizing Pressure, What Happens in Your Body?

Inside your ears there are air spaces that are only connected to the outside by the Eustachian tubes. These are small ducts that connect the middle ear to the back of the nose and the top of the throat (nasopharynx) and their only function is equalizing pressure.

When we descend, two physical phenomena happen.

  1. Pressure increases, which causes the air spaces in your ears to become compressed.
  2. A vacuum is created in the ear canals, which causes the eardrum and the rest of the auditory organs to sag inward and makes us feel that unbearable pain.

All this happens because our Eustachian tubes are closed and do not allow the air, which is in our mouth and nose and has a higher pressure, to pass. What we have to do is to open them consciously. According to DAN, these are the methods you can equalize pressure properly while diving.

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Equalizing Pressure Using Different Methods

-Passive Pressure Equalization.

This, consists of ascending. If the pressure causes you such sharp pain, most likely, you will not be able to compensate with any other method. Ascend and equalize pressure before descending again.

-Voluntary Tubal Opening

Push the lower jaw forward as if you were going to yawn. Try to tense the throat muscles that control the Eustachian tubes, so they will open. Some divers have strengthened these muscles in such a way that they can keep them under tension for constant equalization.

-Toynbee Maneuver

Equalizing pressure in this way is performed by plugging the nose and swallowing saliva. The simple act of swallowing opens the Eustachian tubes.

– Frenzel Maneuver

With your mouth closed, pinch your nose and rest your tongue against your back palate as if you were going to pronounce a “k” and contract the epiglottis. Try to raise your throat towards your ears. Equalizing pressure in this way has two advantages:

  1. You only need the air in your mouth to perform it, not from your lungs.
  2. You use your throat muscles, so it is safer for your ears.

– Valsalva Maneuver

Although this is probably the most commonly used technique to equalize pressure, it is not the safest. The Valsalva technique consists of plugging the nose. Diving, you can do it by pinching the skirt of the nose pocket of your mask and nose inside. After that, try to expel air gently through the nose. As the air does not find another exit, it opens the Eustachian tubes.

Equalizing pressure in this way presents some problems:

  1. When the tubes are blocked by the pressure difference it does not work. It is because the Valsalva Maneuver does not activate the throat muscles that open them.
  2. It is possible to damage something if done too hard.
  3. It can break the round windows of the inner ear.
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– Edmonds Maneuver

This is a combination of the Valsalva maneuver with the voluntary opening of the tubes. In this maneuver, you also have to prevent the air from escaping through the nose, blowing while pushing the jaw out like a yawn.

-Lowry Technique:

Again, we are faced with a combined technique. It is a combination between the Valsalva maneuver and Tombee’s one. Once more, we have to hold our nose and blow out at the same time as we swallow.

Equalizing pressure safely is a must for comfortable diving. So, PADI and DAN advise using the throat muscles to open the tubes and avoid forcing them by pushing air into them.

Now it’s your turn, tell us, for equalizing pressure while diving, which method do you use the most? Share your comment on Facebook.