Nearly every diver, at some point during their diving career will experience issues with equalizing. It’s so common that nearly 89% of divers tend not to equalize properly, resulting in 29% of divers having to stay out of the water for weeks or even months due to the damage it causes. There have been many times where I have struggled with equalizing, one of which was in Thailand, where the more I pushed through, the more I suffered. Pushing through the pain is certainly not the answer. In fact, 6.3% of divers suffer with permanent damage, all because they were unable to equalize properly.
The technique that we are originally taught is the ‘Valsalva Maneuver’. This technique is where you pinch your nostrils and blow through your nose. This results in an overpressure in your throat that forces air up into your Eustachian tubes. It works perfectly well, as long as you keep these tubes open ahead of the pressure changes. If you don’t equalize often or early enough, the pressure difference can cause the soft tissues to come together, creating a seal. Any further force or pressure on your part, can lead to serious damage to the inner structure of the ear.
The three main issues with the ‘Valsalva Maneuver’ are…
- It does not activate the muscles that open the Eustachian tubes, so if there is a difference in pressure and the tubes are sealed, this technique will not help you equalize.
- It is extremely easy to blow too hard and cause damage.
- Blowing against a blocked off nose raises your internal fluid pressure, including the fluid pressure within your inner ear, which could cause the delicate internal structures to rupture.
If you would like to learn more about newer, safer and more efficient equalizing techniques take a look at the infographic below, created by the amazing team at divein.com, which will help you to prevent any equalizing issues from occurring on your next dive.