Problems with equalising
Sometimes there are other issues which prevent us from equalising properly and lead to ear squeeze. Even if you’re trying your hardest to balance the pressure, the body might just say ‘no’. These issues are likely to stem from a problem with your aforementioned Eustachian tubes, or from other reasons like:
- Cold and flu,
- Head colds,
- Deviated septum,
- Broken nose, and
- Irritation or inflammation of mucous membranes.
It’s advised not to go diving deep if you’ve recently had a cold, flu, or headache, are experiencing allergies, or smoked within the last few hours. Same goes for if you have any hay fever, sinusitis, earache, or any other inflammation or irritation of your mucous membranes. If your problems are chronic or more serious, then you should talk to an ENT surgeon to see if they can help ease your issues so you can keep doing those awesome dives.
What happens if you ignore an ear squeeze
Like we said before, an ear squeeze is your body’s first and final warning that worse things are on the horizon. If you ignore it, or don’t pay much attention, then you will experience barotrauma. This is not only painful as hell, but it can be damaging and will also mean you can’t dive until it’s gone…
Here’s a step-by-step on what happens as you dive, and what will happen if you ignore that ear squeeze:
- 1 foot (0.445 psi pressure difference) – Water pressure outside your eardrums is now slightly higher than the pressure inside your ear canal. You can feel pressure in your ears and they flex inwards.
- 4 feet (1.78 psi pressure difference) – You begin to feel the first signs of ear squeeze. The nerve endings in your eardrums are stretched and they bulge out into your middle ears.
6 feet (2.67 psi pressure difference) – The pressure has locked your Eustachian tubes and you can no longer open them to equalise. Your eardrum continues to stretch, tearing its tissues, and expanding or bursting your blood vessels.
Results: You’ll have inflammation for a week, and bruising that can last up to 3 weeks.
- 8 feet (3.56 psi pressure difference) – If you’re not descending too fast, you’ll have middle ear barotrauma by now. Blood and mucus is sucked out of your tissues and fills your middle ear, equalising the pressure. Your pain subsides. Results: Your ears won’t look pretty and may still have some issues for another week or so while fluid is reabsorbed in your body.
- 10 feet (4.45 psi pressure difference) – If you’re going down fast, then your eardrums are likely to burst. Water will flood into your middle ear, you may experience dizziness and vertigo. If you try to equalise by blowing too long and hard against pinched nostrils then you may experience inner barotrauma, which will result in temporary or sometimes permanent hearing loss.
Yikes, how’s that for grim? Diving is a load of fun and excitement, but it should always be done carefully and with good understanding of safety basics. If you’re going to be going for a dive, try to equalise your ears before going underwater first. If you feel like your membranes might be blocked and not allowing enough air in, then enjoy a shallow dive for that day.