Sunday, July 24, 2005

Question: Extreme problems equalizing. Dr. Dekelboum's Techniques


I am a 21 year old college student new to the diving scene. My father and I became certified last summer, and we are currently planning another trip for next month. He has contacted you guys before and told me how quick and helpful you were answering his questions, so now I have a question of my own...
When I was younger I was very prone to ear infections, to the degree that almost every time I went into the water, if I wasn't extremely careful, I would get sick. When we went diving for the first time I had a really hard time with the pressure. My dad was able to equalize very quickly, and had to wait for about 5 minutes for me to reach the depth at which we were diving. It was so bad that I had to dive inch by inch in order to not be in excruciating pain. I want to go on this trip, but I don't think I should if it is going to be that painful, I also don't know if I am doing any permanent damage to my ears. I would just like to know if there is anything I should do or consider when diving in the future so as to not be in pain, or harm my ears... I would hate to have to stop diving...
Please let me know when you get a chance what you think I should do.
Thank you so much for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon.

Answer by Dr. Allen Dekelboum:

Hello Diver:

Your request was referred to me for comment.

Do you have difficulty when descending in airplanes? If so, your Eustachian tubes might have some residual narrowing from your ear infections as a child. It should not be painful for you to dive. If you do have pain, you might not be equalizing correctly. I am linking my tips for equalization that might offer you a way to avoid pain and to equalize without any middle ear damage. I would try the Lowry technique. It does take some practice and should always be done gently. All equalization techniques should be done gently.

If you are unable to dive without pain, then I would recommend that you not dive. Repeated barotrauma to the ears can produce some permanent problems.

Good Luck.

Allen Dekelboum, M.D.