Scuba diving can be a fantastic way to stay healthy and enjoy the various adventures that life offers. However, it’s crucial to recognize that scuba diving can be hazardous if you fail to take the proper precautions. Oddly enough, the most common injuries scuba divers get aren’t related to a loss of oxygen or becoming trapped underwater; it’s injuries like a blocked ear that are more likely to occur. Here’s what you should know about blocked ears and how to clear them during (or after) a dive:
How Does an Ear Become Blocked?
When someone’s ear becomes blocked, the issue they’re experiencing is an imbalance of pressure between the inner and outer ears. The ear itself is connected to the throat, and as a consequence of this, can usually achieve balanced pressure through swallowing or chewing gum. Many people use these methods during an airplane flight or a drive into the mountains to account for the elevation’s change in external pressure.
However, in a diver’s case, a blocked ear can result from water filling the ear or the body attempting to correct the pressure by releasing blood and plasma into the inner ear. Reaching this point generally should be avoided, which is why experienced divers have many ways to bring ear pressure back into balance.
What Are the Dangers of a Blocked Ear?
If you believe that a blocked ear is likely to result in a little dizziness, a slight headache, and nothing more, you’d be only half right. In some cases, a little discomfort is all that a person experiences.
However, in other cases, a blocked ear can result in the eardrum being perforated or entirely ruptured. The result of such a situation can be an ear infection or, in the rarest and most severe cases, permanent hearing loss.
How Do I Clear an Ear Blockage?
The best way to care for a blocked ear is to avoid it altogether through proper scuba diving training and following best practices. However, once you have a blocked ear, it’s best to use techniques like the Valsalva or Toynbee maneuvers, the Lowry technique, or even swallowing to help equalize the pressure in your ear. Learn more about these techniques below:
If your ear feels full after a dive, you can use ear drops to get rid of any water and dry out the ear. While this will help in most cases, if you feel pain, then you should seek medical attention as quickly as you can. You can also consult your local ENT for any additional questions, as well as the hyperbaric department at the University of Pennsylvania.
To find out more about how to treat a blocked ear or get a quote for scuba classes, call Scubadelphia Diveseekers today!