Ear Protection for Freediving

How Freediving can affect your ears?

Simular to SCUBA diving your ears are very important on every dive you do. However with freediving, you have the added difficulties of doing it using only the air you have once you hold your breathe as well as learning to do it up side down.  

When freedivers say they have "ear trouble" it generally refers to not being able to get past a certain depth due to difficulty equalising rather than an unhealthy ear. However below are problems that can occur for Freedivers in regards ears. 

1. Swimmers Ear

When water is left in your ear after swimming it creates a moist enviroment for bacterial growth.  If your skin lining your ear canal is already irritated or inflammed, this with the combination of stagnent water in your ear canal will encourage an infection to develop in your ear canal.This type of infection is known as Swimmers Ear (Otitis Externa). 

2. Middle ear Barotrauma

This is by far the most frequently reported injury among divers. People with barotitis media generally develop symptoms immediately following the dive, but delays of up to one day or longer have been reported. When the diver descends, the pressure can cause injury to the middle ear. This overpressure of the middle ear can cause serious fluid and blood to leak into the middle ear, partially or completely filling it.

3. Ear drum Rupture

Barotraumatic injuries to the ear may result in perforation or rupture of the tympanic membrane. This may occur in as little as 7 feet / 2.1 meters of water.

4. Inner ear Barotrauma

This injury generally occurs when divers attempt to forcefully equalize their ears. This "hard" blowing over-pressurizes the middle ear and can result in implosive or explosive damage to the round and oval windows

5. Inner Ear Decompression Sickness

This generally occurs in deeper or longer dives when decompression stops have not been undertaken correctly. It is caused by formation and growth of bubbles from excess dissolved gas in body tissues, it can happen in many body tissues and the inner ear is one of them.

Tips for Freediving and your Ears

  • Compared to other water sports, as Freedivers or SCUBA divers you SHOULD NOT use ear plugs to protect your ears from swimmers ear due to the increased pressure build up that would occur between the plug and your ear drum
  • Using a hood in cold water helps keep your head and the water entering your ears warmer
  • A large part of getting equalisation right with freediving is being relaxed, having a stiff neck will not help
  • Try to imagine there is a golf ball that you are holding between your chin and chest while descending this will help to open your eustachian tubes for easier equalising
  • Dizziness and disorientation can occur if your ears are pushed too far, always dive with a buddy and if you feel any discomfort or can't equalise, please stop
  • Never dive with a cold, a build up of mucus and congestion will make equalisation difficult and if to much force is used to try to equalise this could cause damage to your ears.
  • Your eustachian tube is a muscle that needs strengthening to open, practice equalising while at home, even just reading a book or watching television.
  • Reducing your level of dairy intake will help reduce the level of mucus and congestion in your sinuses, stay clear of dairy at least a day before diving.
  • Be well hydrated, Increase your water intake prior to diving
Freediving Equalisation by Ahran Soloman

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