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Ear Fear in the Vertical Position

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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New Member
Aug 19, 2002
The Ear Fear thread was great, but I would like to deviate just a bit. I have looked at ever link on that thread, most of them from earlier posts, printed many out, practiced in front of the mirror and had a lot of on-land and some in-the-water success. But I have come to this conclusion -- its when I am total inverted I have problems.

I can equalize easy in an upright position, in a horizontal position and at a more than 45% head down position, put when my body gets in the vertical I can’t equalize anymore. I can get my eustachian tubes open in a less than vertical position and then through air pressure against a close nose, hold them open in a vertical position, but if I get distracted and ease up just a little, they close and won’t open until I get horizontal again. This makes descending difficult as it takes a lot of time and air to go from vertical to horizontal and back to vertical again.

Sometimes, when spearfishing, I begin my dive several meters in front of where I want to go so that I can descend at less than vertical. Does anyone else have this problem and what have you done about it?
Don, someone did mention that same problem in the past threads, and I think it was'nt more than 4 months ago, otherwise I would'nt have read it.

From what I remember, one of the things that person was advised to do is to look straight forward - 90degrees. Just to make it clearer, forward is not being to direction of your dive, but 90 degrees from it - horizontally. If u dive to 6 o'clock(down), u should look toward 9 o'clock (or 3). In that way, you are in a natural position, and IF your problem is doe to the tissue stress of stretching, it will be solved.

And ofcourse you're more streamlined and relaxed when doing so.

I hope it helps.

Just be carefull not to hit your head on the bottom and have your own version of SWB. :duh
hi don

i´ve met many people having problems equalising. my sugestion here may not be precisely what you are looking for but it might be worth a try.

i always recommend the following : when diving start equalising immediately, keep your hand on your nose and kick. supposedly you have equalised all right. now don´t remove your hand but keep the pressure to your middle ear up. deep thoughts body/head position definitely helps, too.
now as you go deeper the airvolume in your mouth that you use for equalising becomes less and at one point you´ll have to repeat this process.

the advantage of this method is that 1. you can descent quickly without pain/pressure in your ears/sinuses and 2. you have to equalise less often cause you basically equalise continuously.

i found that this kind of technique helped quite a few people out.

i´m interested to hear wether that was helpful and also if you´ve learned something else. since i work as a scuba instructor a bit equalising is quite an issue for me.

thanks and good luck

Thanks Roland,
Your technique on continuous equalization is basically what I do now, but it’s not without difficulty. Also your response to my equalizing mask thread, that I probably am doing it by some air escaping from my nose in equalizing my ears, I think is right on. I blow, squeeze, push my jaw forward, tilt my head and anything else I can think of. Its very possible some air is escaping into my mask. I will try your go-slow method. Unfortunately I don’t have a clear deep place to practice. My practice is in real time when I take a long offshore trip.

I purchased an inversion machine just so I could practice in the vertical position at home. Currently I have to put a lot of pressure on my ear drums to keep my eustachian tubes open in the vertical position. I believe I am damaging my ear drums at times, because I will experience pain for a few days, just from dry practice on the inversion machine. My technique is to equalize my ears in about a 120 degree angle (with 180 degree being straight down) and then swing down to 180.

My Eustachian tubes are so open up now, I can equalize in the horizontal position, hand free. It appears the problem is blood that somewhere is filling a body part and putting pressure on Eustachian tubes when I am vertical. I remember from gymnastic class as a child that some people had a lot of problems with blood going to their head when vertical until their bodies got used to being vertical. I think I will try hanging upside down everyday for a while and see if it has any effect.

If I find an answer I will post for you. ?Thanks again for the advice.
Don , when I am on my way to a spearing site I spend some time "pre- equalizing" ; gently blowing air into the eustachians for 15 - 20 secs. at a time . By the time I enter the water my ears are warmed up and raring to go ...:D
I find that if I get cold after some hours my ears start getting blocked due to neck tension ad have to get back on board to warm up , stretch my neck , eat something ect.
Re. hanging upside down ; if you start craving human blood...;)
I wonder if drinking human blood is another way to get oxygen into your blood, trough your stomach, instead of lungs. :)
It's a good source for iron, that's for sure.

I'm interested your results. There are many people suffering the same problem. Can equalize perfectly upwards (with or without pinching the nose) , but when downwards (or even looking down, little over 90 degrees) it will not succeed. The problem seems to be the same with frenzel or valsalva methods.

No breakthrough results yet. I have been able to equalize a few times after my body seems to adjust to the blood rush, but they are not easy, clear equalization like I get in the horizontal position. I also have been combining it with my dry static’s, by equalizing in the horizontal and then swinging vertical. If nothing else, this duplicates how I descend in real-life (pressuring the tubes and holding them open all the way down) so hopefully I will at least get better at this.

The only conclusion I can draw is that is it’s a problem with no quick solution. I have tried ever technique suggested to me or read from my research and nothing has miraculous worked. I would say that for a person to overcome this problem, it is going to take someone who really wants to freedive and is willing to put a lot of work into it. Not something you can teach in a few minutes at a beginner freediving class for those who just want to give freediving a try. Maybe for those students, you could either put a rope at a 45% angle for them to descend on or, or tell them to go feet first using their hands to propel them between equalizations. That would at least get them under the water so they can experience it.

Thanks for the interest and I hope this helps. I will keep you up dated.
have you tried consulting with an ear doctor? maybe he can give you a special training for that problem. Or maybe you have some unusual problem he can spot, or send you to some head-scans.

I have been able to equalize a few times after my body seems to adjust to the blood rush

Did you check if you're not suffering from a high blood pressure? or maybe you're over-wheighted? (just speculating, no offence.)
No offense taken. Just gives me a chance to brag a little. I will never forget when my ex’s father got slapped by his wife for bragging he had lost 20lbs.. Her family took humility to the extreme! I was genuinely happy for him and enjoyed that he felt good enough about his achievement to brag about it.

Anyway, I’m 42, have a 48 beats per minute resting heart rate, a low enough body fat that I am neutrally buoyant at about 8’, run a 6 minute mile, even the hard core body builders respect my strength in the wet room, have a very low cholesterol level (my total was 80 something once and the doctor told me I needed to raise it by eating more fat), have a 4:30 breath-hold, and avoid simple sugars. So no, I don’t have highblood pressure or am I overweight. I forgot what my blood pressure is, but it's good. Whenever they take it or my pulse, they redo it, because they can’t believe it the first time.

Okay, I will quit the bragging. On the doctor thing. I have only been to an ear specialist once, when I put a small hole in the eardrum from a watersking accident. I haven’t considered going to one for the vertical equalization problem, because frankly I didn’t think they would care. I figured they would probably give me a speech on how I should be grateful I can hear, etc.. If you know one that would care, I would love to talk to him.
Quite the superhuman. :) you got me beated there in most but breath-hold, I won't bore you with my anomalities since I'm not sure what advantage I get from them. btw, neutrally buoyant at 8 feet? niiiice. :cool:

I haven’t considered going to one for the vertical equalization problem, because frankly I didn’t think they would care. I figured they would probably give me a speech on how I should be grateful I can hear, etc.. If you know one that would care, I would love to talk to him.

I've only been once to a ear doctor myself, but he wasn't too nice also. Maybe ear doctors all around the world have the same hearing problems. :)

You can always switch the ear doctor, till you'll find a good one. Maybe you should call and ask a dive doctor if he can direct you to the right place.

I hope you'll find a solution, especially since it sounds like you invested a great deal of time, cash and effort.
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