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clearing ears

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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New Member
Dec 11, 2002
This is my first post here, so, hello to everyone. :)

I have a question about clearing ears: do you need to clear an ear if it has a tube? I ask because one of my ears has a tube in it, and I have trouble clearing it. Not that it's difficult to do in itself, but it clears much more slowly than my other ear, and I'm seriously worried about bursting or damaging that other one.

Thanks for any help!
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Ehh... I'm actually not sure about their technical name. But it's this sort of thing: you get lots of ear infections, doctor gets tired of it, you get tired of it, drainage tubes get inserted in the eardrum. Like lots of children get. Only I'm 20, which makes mine a bit odd.
How strange

Never heard of that before. Well, if it joins your ear funnel to your eustachian tube then you will never need to clear it but it will squirt water into your eustacian tube as you descend.

This sounds weierd.

Is there a valve on it?

Do you have to clear it when going on planes etc.?

No, it doesn't do anything with my eustachian tube. It's just like a child's tube, it just provides a hole in the eardrum to allow fluid to drain into the ear canal.
oh, i see! your ear really does have a tube in it!!
sorry, i haven't heard of such a thing before.

I can't imagine that diving with such a tube is a good idea? Water getting in there is bound to cause problems. Did your doctor tell you about not swimming etc? I think I would hold back on the diving and equalising until the ear is 100%? I think you'd best ask your doctor about this stuff really.

Doctor says...

swimming is fine, water in there is fine. I get swimmer's ear, because my eustachian tubes don't drain well (which is why I have the tubes in the first place - no drain = ear infection), but I have some prescription eardrops for that. My only problem is that the hole means it normally takes quite a bit of pressure to make the ear pop at all when clearing it - and long before then, my other ear is usually quite done, thank you. Sometimes, both ears pop at once for some reason, which is how I know the ear with the tube CAN clear. But normally not. So I'm wondering if I even NEED to clear it - after all, if there's a hole in it, it would make sense (to me at least) that the ear should equalize pretty much automatically. But, I'm not sure. Doctor - I'll go if necessary, but since appointments cost money and online advice does not, I'm asking here first. :)
surface swimming may be ok, but diving under pressure may be different.

it sounds like you also have tight openings to your eustachian tubes - quite common. you just need to learn to equalise efficiently... read www.ericfattah.com/equalizing.html that will teach you everything you need to know.

you might benefit from training the muscles that control the opening to your eustachian tubes. this action is known as BTV, a form of equalisation. it's hard to explain, but you probably already know about it. it's how people normally release pressure from inside the eusatchain tube when ascending in a plane etc. (or descending)

"I'm seriously worried about bursting or damaging that other one."....

from this I'm guessing that you're using the Valsalva technique to equalise. this is far from ideal. you can't really control the pressure very well with this method. So if you have one good ear and one bad ear, you can easily overpressurise your good ear by trying to equalise your bad ear. the answer is to train the muscles for BTV and learn the Frenzel method (see above document), which allows you to control the pressure much more precisely and therefore reduce the risk of overpressurising your good ear.
A question

I've looked at the frenzel technique. But, I still don't know how to increase pressure in one ear but not the other. Did I miss something?
my left ear equalises easier than my right. Using Valsalva right now, i can equalise my left only, but not my right. blowing harder makes no difference i only tend to overpressurise my left ear, and risks damaging it.
it's not a matter of equalising one ear and not the other. i think the advantage of Frenzel over Valsalva is that you can generate much more pressure and more quickly with Frenzel. you can produce a very quick momentary burst of pressure that immediately opens both tubes, but doesnt overpressurise the ears.
generally, if you have tight eustachian tubes, you'll need to Frenzel harder and faster to equalise. If they're less tight, then you can afford to Frenzel more gently and/or slower. working the BTV muscles should help make the openings less tight.
Valsalva is no good (for equalisation) for freediving. stick with the Frenzel and BTV, and keep practicing. it can take time to get it right, be prepared to spend time practicing.
Originally posted by Alun
working the BTV muscles should help make the openings less tight.
Valsalva is no good (for equalisation) for freediving. stick with the Frenzel and BTV, and keep practicing. it can take time to get it right, be prepared to spend time practicing.

Exactly right. The whole concept was completely foreign to me until I went to a freedive clinic with Kirk Krack. Eight months after that (and after LOTS of experimentation and practice) I can equalize no-hands at any angle and even able to clear each ear independently. You just have to figure out which muscles are openning the tubes and manage to make them contract voluntarily. Your clue is "they work when you yawn".

Good luck

Alun, thanks for the idea on the "quick burst" - that pops both ears fairly well; it's cool, I can hear the wind whistling through the one with the tube. :)

No hands, control one ear over the other - I'm a ways from that. Will keep practising, like you guys suggest.

To Hydro:

Can you tell me more about this kind of Equalisation and how to train it? I often read about it, but the only detail I could get was: "Like Swallowing, etc..."

Thanks and Merry Christmas,

Re: Equalisation

Originally posted by tanteh
To Hydro:

Can you tell me more about this kind of Equalisation and how to train it? I often read about it, but the only detail I could get was: "Like Swallowing, etc..."


I have to apologize in advance for being unable to provide specific instructions. The nature of the question makes it very hard to approach from a theoretical perspective. Also I'm not an expert and cannot claim to know much about this. As I said, I became familiar with the technique at Kirk's clinic. I got the basics by discussing it with Kirk and watching Martin demonstrating it in practice. To anyone interested about this and other advanced techniques I would recommend without any reservation taking the clinic. It is well worth it.
Although the principle is quite simple (two pairs of muscles contract and open the eustachian tubes) the practice is not as straightforward. A good start is "listening" to the clicking sound that the tubes make when cleared (for example when yawning). Trying to reproduce the click in upright position on dry land is the first step. Doing the same thing inverted at depth is the last. There is plenty of trial-and-error in between.
Hope this helps
What does your doctor say about you diving? With a tube in the eardrum, it is likely that you will get water in the middle ear. Even the link you posted has a section on this. If diving is really important too you, then maybe you should try something to keep the ear dry, like wear a ProEar mask.

The danger of water in the middle ear is hearing loss due to infection and maybe just the water itself damaging the delicate workings of the sound recognition parts of the ear.

Like you said the tubes are normally used in children with Eustachian Tubes problems. Children have more problems with their Eustachian Tubes than adults, because they are not developed fully. The tube in the eardrum is a crutch like fix. The real problem is what ever is keeping the Eustachian Tubes from opening and in children this may fix its self with time.

As an adult maybe you should find a physician to explore what is causing the Eustachian Tubes not to open. One possible problem is Adenoids, which are swollen Pharyngeal tonsils. I am sure they’re our other possible problems. Was the doctor who put the tube in an Otologist? If not find one, if he was, find another.

In your last post you said to Alun that you could hear the air whistling through the ear with the tube in it, apparently by using the Frenzel technique. This means you are opening the Eustachian Tube in that ear. Maybe with this technique and regular use of it, you could get rid of the tube.
I found this very intensive page on ear problems and solutions. It is from the United States Naval Flight Surgeon's Manual and is mostly directed to aviation, but quick military types of decents are similar to what freedivers experience. http://www.vnh.org/FSManual/08/02Otology.html

Specifically on Jason’s issue of diving with a tube in the eardrum, which is a perforated eardrum it had this sentence. . “Of course, water in a perforated ear usually leads to infection and drainage”
I had those tubes in my ears when I was a kid - they are called grommets and apparently are the reason my eardrums rupture far too easily these days.
My doc at the time said not to get my ears wet and I spent a year swimming with neck ache keeping my head out of the water and only washing my hair with earplugs in so I'm mad jealous that your doctor reckons you can dive with them!
as for equalising - you shouldn't need to clear that ear as you descend which is nice. On the other hand you are likely to get disorientated as water flushes in behind it. Ive had that a few times diving with a perforated drum and it can give you quite bad vertigo (not knowing which is up and down). One guy I trained with recommended that if I HAD to dive with an open ear I should always use a leash so I can find my way back up...
be really careful though, if you get water in behind them you seriously risk losing your hearing.
how long do you have to have the tube in?
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