11 Tips to equalize your ears when scuba diving

How to pop your ears?  It sounds ominous but how to equalize your ears when scuba diving is an important page in your diving techniques portfolio. Our ears are made of three different components: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Scuba divers are working with the different pressures between the outer and middle ear when learning how to equalize ears. Discover different diving techniques to learn how to pop your ear safely as your ears adjust to the different pressures underwater. As we descend, the pressure on the outer ear increases, while the pressure on the inner ear remains the same. We need to equalize the pressure by forcing air through the Eustachian tube to the middle ear. Simply put you need to know the best way to pop your ear or how to equalize your ears.  As we descend, we need to increase the pressure in the middle ear and as we ascend, we need to decrease the pressure in the middle ear. If you do not equalize your ears when diving you may do serious damage to your ears, or cause a barotrauma. Always be conscious of ear pain and practice the equalizing techniques below to know how to pop your ear.

Large colourful fish EMPTY NEST DIVER
How to pop your ear??

If we descend without equalizing our Eustachian tubes become blocked or collapse from the outside pressure. Keep reading for my 11 diving techniques on how to equalize ears.

11 Diving techniques on how to equalize ears

1/ How to equalize ears – start at home

We equalize our ears naturally without realizing. Every time we swallow or yawn our Eustachian tubes are pulled open adjusting the pressure in our middle ear. I know as I have gotten older my hearing has worsened, so I am careful not to do any more damage. The diving techniques I use to equalize my ears begin the night before the dive. I make a point of swallowing and doing neck stretches to open my Eustachian tubes. Scuba diving generally equates with early mornings so it is easy to start equalizing from home with big yawns and a stretch. Chewing gum can also help as it causes you to swallow.

2/ How to equalize ears – continue on the boat

Take a flask of warm water with you and have a few mouthfuls. The warm water and proper hydration stops your Eustachian tubes becoming sticky, enabling them to open more easily. Continue to swallow, yawn and stretch on the boat. Consider it a mini workout for your ears. They will thank you, and hopefully respond by opening your Eustachian tubes. Be proactive so you know how to pop your ears and equalize the pressure. Move your jaw from side to side, before you have to deal with a regulator in your mouth.

3/ How to equalize ears – in the water

Once you have entered the water, tilt your head backwards to give your neck and throat a big stretch. You may also stretch your neck from side to side, tense your neck and push your jaw forward and down. These stretches help open your Eustachian tubes. Start equalizing before you descend.

4/ How to equalize ears – The Valsalva Maneuver

The Valsalva Maneuver is the go to method when you want to know how to make your ear pop. Pinch your nose and gently exhale through your nose. Pinching your nose shut will hopefully redirect the exhaled air to your Eustachian tubes forcing them open.

5/ How to equalize ears – The Toynbee Maneuver

I find the Toynbee Maneuver more effective than the Valsalva Maneuver but harder to do. For the Toynbee Maneuver press your tongue against the roof of your mouth, pinch your nose and swallow. Breathing through the regulator dries my mouth and I have trouble swallowing. This is my back up when I am trying to figure out how to get my ear to pop.

6/ How to equalize ears – The Lowry Maneuver

Still having touble and don’t know how to make your ear pop? The Lowry Maneuver combines the Valsalva and Toynbee Maneuvers. Pinch your nose, exhale gently and swallow at the same time.

7/ How to equalize ears – equalize early and often

Start equalizing on the surface and as you descend perform one of the above methods every half metre or so. I always start with the Valsalva Maneuver and move to the other methods if I am having difficulty. Equalize early and often.

8/ How to equalize ears – go slow

Once you begin your descent, go slowly. My son has a lot of trouble with his ears and as his buddy I always stay with him and we take our time. Slow and steady wins the dive. Josh & I will quite often dive a few metres above the group until his ears clear. For me I have trouble with my ears until about 8 metres and then I’m fine. Everyone is different. I go at my own pace, quite often slowly. Never feel pressured to rush your descent, especially if you feel pain.

9/ How to equalize ears – descend feet first

Remain vertical, fins pointing down, legs slightly bent to lesson water resistance, deflate and exhale and begin a controlled descent. Descending feet first keeps your head higher and at less depth, giving your ears more time to adjust with less pressure.

10/ How to equalize ears – use a mooring line

If you can, use a mooring/anchor line. Using a mooring line allows you to control the speed of your descent, it also enables you to move up and down the line without having to worry about current.

11/ How to equalize ears – stop if it hurts

Stop and go up a little bit if your ears are hurting and repeat the above methods. Some dives I hardly have to equalize, others dives I am continously equalizing and it is a slow descent. Listen to your body, if your ears are really painful stop and go up slowly. As I mentioned Josh has a lot of trouble with his ears and has had to call a dive on more than one occasion. Your health and safety always come first in diving.

Remaining at the same depth can cause your Eustachian tubes to be caught in the pressure. How to make your ear pop? Ascending a metre or two will release the pressure and you will more likely be able to equalize.

It’s never too late – TAKE THE DIVE WITH TANYA

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Published by emptynestdiver

Learning to dive in my fifties has been a great adventure, I am a senior scuba diver but young at heart.

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