So Can Scuba Diving Damage Your Ears
Well, yes and no. Any extreme sport has an inherent risk and diving is no exception. However, as long as you are conscientious about safety practices you should be totally fine. Be sure to keep your ears clean and dry after every dive and the chances of infection are very slim. Even if you do end up with an ear infection, in most cases they are nothing but an annoyance. Nonetheless, if things progress be sure to contact your doctor.
Can Scuba Diving Cause Ear Infections
There are two reasons you might find yourself reading this right now. Youre either thinking about taking up scuba diving and are doing research on potential risks, or sitting inside a hotel, missing out on the days dive because your ear feels clogged up and painful. No matter which one of those is true, youre trying to get to the bottom of it.
Yes, scuba diving can cause ear infections, the most common of which is swimmers ear. This occurs when the outer ear canal gets infected from excess moisture which then allows bacteria to enter, commonly causing pain and swelling.
What Injuries May Occur As A Result Of Ear Pain When Diving
If you are unlucky enough to suffer an injury to your ear when diving, the most likely injury is a perforated ear drum. This most often occurs during descent, but can also occur during ascent and is caused by ineffective equalisation causing an increased pressure to perforate the eardrum. If it happens on the way up it is due to reverse block with the eardrum perforating or rupturing outwards. More on reverse block below!
If a perforated eardrum is not the cause, another possibility is severe middle ear barotrauma, which can be equally painful.
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How To Deal With Ear Pain While Diving
Most divers really only start to appreciate how much of a hassle their ears can be once they start to have ear problems. From being a minor inconvenience to a major hassle, ear problems have ruined many a holiday. Understanding your ears and what are the most common problems you can have with them is key to avoiding them. By developing a few good habits, you are almost guaranteed to consign ear issue to history.
The Outer Ear Problems
The divers outer ear might suffer two primary issues, wax build up and infections, both result in severe pain when diving in addition to difficulty equalizing. Because wax build-up makes a plug in the ear it makes it hard to equalize properly. The best cure is to irrigate the ears with some warm water. You can buy home kits to treat the problem or seek professional medical help.
Various infections affect the outer ear but most of them are treatable with simple eardrops, which treat infections and reduce inflammation. To identify the best eardrops for your problem, you will need the help of a medical professional. If you are more prone to the outer ear infections, you will have to rinse the outer ear regularly with some clean water after each dive.
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What Causes A Fungal Ear Infection
Earwax protects the lining of the ear from fungus so anything that reduces the amount of wax will allow a fungal infection to take hold. Eczema of the skin inside the ear can be another risk factor.
The outside temperature plays a significant part. Fungi grow faster in the heat, so it’s more common in warmer climates. In the UK it occurs more often in summer than in winter.
9 out of 10 fungal infections are due to a fungus belonging to the Aspergillus species and the rest are caused by a fungus of the Candida species.
Rinse Your Ears After A Dive
After a dive, remember to rinse out your ear canal using fresh drinking water. If you arent wearing vented earplugs, then there may be some salt or debris left in the canal that can cause inflammation and infections.
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What Causes Ear Infections
Heres something you might not know though. Otitis Externa, the medical name for swimmers ear, is not caused by bacteria in the water. The problem isnt the water getting into your ear canal, as much as it is that the water is staying in there.
What I mean is that the ones to blame for your ear pain are the naturally occurring bacteria already living inside your ear canal. When you stay for long periods underwater, your skin cells swell and pull apart, allowing the bacteria to get under your skin. Here they find the perfect environment to multiply like crazy.
If left untreated, they can keep multiplying, and the infection can spread to your lymph nodes. Once that happens, itll be painful to move your jaw, and diving is 100% out of the question. Your only course of action is antibiotics.
Will I Need Any Tests For A Fungal Ear Infection
Your doctor will probably treat your ear first and take an ear swab if the condition doesn’t get better. Taking an ear swab is a fairly simple procedure and involves the doctor putting a swab that looks very similar to a cotton bud in your ear and swishing it around. This shouldn’t be painful unless your ear is very tender and inflamed from the infection. Even then, gentle swabbing should only cause mild discomfort.
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Treatment Forms For Ear Pain From Scuba Diving
Ear pain through scuba diving is usually temporary, and will likely disappear on its own, usually within a few days. If this pain persists, we do recommend that you seek medical intervention.
Should the eardrum be perforated, it normally heals naturally, without medical intervention. But it is important to keep the ear dry during the healing process or be at risk of middle ear infections.
If you choose to seek medical attention following the scuba dive, the physician will likely initially ask a series of questions regarding the dive itself, alongside medical history questions regarding previous sinus problems and respiratory illnesses.
They will then examine the ear thoroughly using an otoscope, in order to assess the health of the eardrum. They will look for any perforations, and look to see if the eardrum is bulging, or retracted, which can be signs of eustachian tube dysfunction.
Hearing loss is another concern with perforated eardrums, which will need to be monitored regularly. The physician may decide to refer you onwards to an Audiologist, where further testing, including a middle ear function test, called a tympanogram can be performed to provide more information about the health of the middle ear.
Diving Is Fun But Not Without Risk To Your Ears
Most injuries result from the increased pressure from the water that is put on the ears. When you descend in the water, the pressure in the middle of the ear doesnt have time to adjust to the pressure outside the ear.
The first 10 to 15 feet of diving is usually when the ears are most affected.
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I Still Cant Equalise
There are many issues that people can have with equalization for freediving. Here are some of the most common:
- Failure to equalize frequently enough In the first 10 meters below the surface, the pressure doubles and you need to frequently equalize.
- Equalizing too late Preempt every equalization. If you feel strong pressure or pain in your ears then you have left equalizing too late and it may become impossible to equalize.
- Equalizing only one ear Make sure you have equalized both ears. If you have a good ear and a bad ear, it sometimes means that you equalize only one but think that you have equalized both.
- Do not strain Equalize gently but effectively. You do not want to strain when equalizing, as this can over-pressurize your ears and can cause reverse block.
- Unable to equalize If you cannot equalize, stop and come back to the surface. You want to avoid damaging your ears at all costs.
- Cannot equalize head first Pulling feet first down the line can be very helpful in learning how to equalize. It is much easier to equalise feet first than head first.
Otitis Externa Or Outer Ear Infection
Oh yes, the good ol ear infection . Also known as Swimmers ear, Its caused when moistness is left in your ear canal which breaks down the protective lubricate barrier of that canal and makes the skin there sensitive. It is the most painful type of infection you can have in your ear. If youre scuba diving every damn day , you are very prone to this, as you are constantly filling your ear canals with water .
Symptoms are usually: pain, muffled hearing, pain when you move your earlobe and more pain. Needless to say you should visit your doc as soon as possible!
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What Really Causes Ear Pain
While ear infections are a cause of ear pain, the more immediate ear pain problems scuba divers experience have more to do with water pressure. During the descent, the external surface of the eardrum is the first to experience the effects of the increase in pressure.
As this occurs, the pressure would normally equalize in the inner surface of the eardrums by traveling through the Eustachian tube to open. However, if the Eustachian tube is not open, then the eardrum is subjected to the rising pressure inside, leading to ear pain and inflammation.
Some recreational divers who dont dive very deep may be able to withstand the ear pain at low depths because the water pressure is not intense enough. However, this is very uncomfortable and may eventually rupture the eardrum. A ruptured eardrum can cause dizziness, vomiting, pain, and hearing loss.
Divers who dont know how to equalize will not be able to dive further, and earplugs will not be able to solve this equalization problem. Earplugs can, however, prevent an ear infection known as Swimmers Ear which can occur when the outer ear is exposed to water, or water is trapped in the ear canal for a prolonged period of time. Again, you should be wearing a special type of earplug known as vented earplugs instead of using a traditional one which does nothing for equalization.
If youre having equalization problems while diving, you should signal to your dive buddy that youre going to resurface and abort the dive.
A Divers Guide: How To Equalise Your Ears
Your ears and sinuses are one of the most important organs when it comes to diving. Unfortunately, most divers only start to appreciate this fact after they incur an injury to this region. From minor ear infections to barotraumas, many a holiday or dive trip has been ruined due to preventable ear issues. That is why understanding the anatomy of your ear, and how diving affects this organ, is key to prevention. With this knowledge, and a few simple tips and tricks, divers can avoid annoying ear injuries and equalise like a pro.
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Dont Dive With A Cold Or Congestion
Even ignoring the fact that your body is in a weakened state, when you have a cold or a congestion you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to equalize your ears while scuba diving.
Should you manage to dive to depth without ear pain, you can also experience a reverse-block on the ascent. Essentially, the air in the ears and sinuses get trapped due to the congestion and this can be just as painful and damaging as if you didnt equalize.
Furthermore, keep in mind that any over-the-counter cold medications may cause side effects like drowsiness, and they may not be effective at treating your illness. Only dive with medications if they have been specifically prescribed to you by a scuba doctor, such as medicine for asthmatics.
Who Gets A Fungal Ear Infection
Fungal infection of the ear is more common in people living in tropical and subtropical countries. It’s also more common in people who do a lot of water sports such as SCUBA diving and surfing. It occurs more often in the summer than the winter.
About 1 in 8 people with infections of the outer part of the ear have fungal infections.
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What Should You Do If You Experience Ear Pain When Diving
Pushing through the pain should not be an option you even consider. The pain is there for a reason indicating something is not right. Continuing to dive or descend will at the very least become increasingly difficult and painful, but you significantly increase the chances of causing temporary or permanent ear damage. For some, this could even signal the end of diving, full stop.
Symptoms Of Middle Ear Barotrauma
Divers report a build-up of pressure and eventually pain, accompanied by an inability to equalize. There can be soreness and pressure on the eustachian tubes too as they begin to collapse from the negative pressure.
If a diver keeps descending without equalizing, the vacuum in his middle ear cavity may eventually pull on his eardrum, and it can eventually burst. Divers who have thus perforated an eardrum report a build-up of pain and pressure and then a feeling of relief as the eardrum bursts. This sensation is usually followed by a rush of coolness as water flows into the middle ear.
On ascent, it feels similar to a middle ear barotrauma on descent. But the process is reversed. This is called a reverse block. Expansion of air in the middle ear on ascent causes over-pressurization of the middle ear, pushing out on the tissues and membranes. The consequences are much the same.
After the Dive:
Mild middle ear barotraumas may be recognized after a dive by the feeling of fullness or water in the ears that cannot be relived. This is caused by the accumulation of blood and body fluids in the eardrum and middle ear, not by water in the outer ear. Divers experiencing a persistent feeling of water in their ears after a dive should get checked by a doctor. You shouldnt dive till the sensation subsides.
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Originally posted by otter-cat Also, I saw earplugs that are called Doc’s Pro Plugs that are supposed to be appropriate for scuba. Do you know about them and are they safe to use? I was wondering if I should try them because they should keep water out of my ears and still allow me to equalize, if the info on their package is correct.
Is It Dangerous To Swim With An Ear Infection
Summer is here, temperatures are rising, and kids want to get outside and cool off. It can be crushing for your little ones if they have to miss out on the chance to go swimming because of an ear infection. But do they have to stay out of the water? In this months blog, we explore the differences between swimmers ear and a middle ear infection and discuss whether it is safe to go back into the water.
Swimmers EarAlso known as otitis externa, swimmers ear is an infection of the outer ear, commonly caused by excess moisture remaining in the ear, which enables bacteria to grow. The bacteria that causes this type of infection can also grow in scratches to the ear canal lining .
Symptoms range from itching in the ear canal, discharge, and mild discomfort that can be felt when the outer ear is touched, to muffled hearing in more moderate cases or even severe pain, blockage of the ear canal, and fever in advanced cases. Typically, swimmers ear is treated first with a thorough cleaning. The Mayo Clinic notes that cleaning your outer ear canal is necessary to help ear drops flow to all infected areas. Your doctor will use a suction device or ear curette to clean away discharge, clumps of earwax, flaky skin and other debris. Then, ear drops are used to clear up the infection, plus over-the-counter pain relievers, as needed.
Once diagnosed, can we go swimming?
- with swimmers ear = NO
- with a middle ear infection = YES
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Are There Home Remedies For Scuba Diving Ear Pain
The treatment of ear squeeze begins during the dive. If a diver feels fullness or pain, stop the dive and attempt to clear the ears. If ear clearing techniques fail, the dive must be ended. Always complete the decompression stops if necessary when returning to the surface.
If the eardrum ruptures, the diver may become disoriented or vomit, which may lead to panic. Panic may lead to ascending too rapidly. The diver’s partner should carefully observe and assist during the ascent. On the surface, keep the ear dry. Do not place anything in the ear.