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Identifying the Points of Sail

Protecting Your Ears While Scuba Diving

The following tips can help you protect your ears when you are scuba diving:

  • Equalize: Equalize your ears, either by pinching your nose closed and swallowing, or blowing gently against your pinched nose, continuously as you descend. Don't wait until you feel discomfort.

  • Don't descend if you can't equalize: Never continue a descent if you are unable to clear your ears. Ascend slightly until the discomfort is relieved and try it again. If your ears won't clear, abort the dive.

  • Don't dive with a cold: Colds and allergies can cause tissues to swell, blocking the eustachian tube. Decongestants may wear off at depth, causing a reverse block — pressurized air that's trapped in the middle ear and won't vent when you ascend.

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  • Never wear earplugs: Earplugs create a space in the ear canal that can't be equalized. Also, hydrostatic pressure may force the earplugs deep into the ear canal where you cannot remove them easily.

  • Get medical attention: If you experience barotrauma in your ears, or suspect that you may have, consult an otolaryngologist immediately.    

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