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Ear training

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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BryanW

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2002
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5
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Hi everyone

I just got back from holiday where I did my first open water freediving. It was great ... sharks ... eagle rays ... chucking up over the side of the boat ... but I had a problem with my ears. They were fine when I first got there, but after a day they'd closed up so it took a lot of effort to equalise, often with no more result than a squeak. I took sudafed and benadryl (the divemaster at the resort thought they might be closing up due to an allergy) and that seemed to do some good, but not enough. By the end of the week, though, they were staying open long enough for me to go down to 70ft, and on the morning I left (sod's law) they were fine, without any need for drugs. I guess what's happened is that I've "trained" them not to close up. But what should I do to make sure they stay "trained" given that I probably won't be freediving for the next several months? And do people generally have this kind of problem with their ears when they start out? The divemaster told me that when he tried freediving he got the same reaction, and so had a friend of his, but I don't remember reading about it in these forums.

Anyone got any experiences or advice? Come on, you can't ALL have been created perfect :D

Bryan
 

Pekka

neoprene dreamer
Aug 22, 2001
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I have had simillar problems...but I don't think mine has anything to do with my ear-tubes..or what ever.
what has caused me problems is when I have not equlized my ears enough for the first dives and then got my ears "plugged" somehow and the rest of the day has been one big struggle to clear my ears...
try equlizing your ears even before in water and then takeing it very slowly in the biginning..
that's my 2c
 

A Brownsword

Well-Known Member
Mar 25, 2002
102
3
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I think what can happen is that you can strain the muscles and tissues by abusing them. When they are in rough condition they don't like to cooperate as much. If you take it slow and easy, and equalize very frequently then you avoid stressing them as much as possible. Good equalizing technique is important too -- you don't want to overpressurize, nor under pressurize.
 

Walrus

Oz freediver
Oct 3, 2001
693
77
0
Like A Brownsword said, if you don't equalize enough or too rough the tissues in the Eustachian tubes will become swollen, making it really hard to equalize after a lot of diving. I think the ear drum and other parts of the ear can get strained too.

I used to have really bad ears, even with scuba diving, now I freedive lots, even dives down to 40m are not a problem.
Practise makes perfect I guess ?

One way you can train your ears is to practise equalising on dry land. Do it gently and hold for it several seconds.
Practise yawning and try and get get that clicking noise before you equalize so you know that the tubes are opening.

Try this a couple of times a day, at least a week before you next go diving.

Over time the E tubes will get more stretchy.

Hope that helps a bit.


P.S. I got a friend who can equalise just by wriggling his ears so to speak!
I hate him I do....
 

BryanW

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2002
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Thanks guys. Walrus - that idea of equalising gently on dry land and holding it for several seconds sounds good. When I've practised on dry land before I've always tried to simulate diving conditions by doing lots of equalisations one after the other, but holding it sounds like it would stretch them a bit better.

I think maybe my tubes were fairly tight to start with, as for example I can't get any air into them at all with the Valsalva method. When I went down I was trying to equalize pretty much all the time, but now I think about it i probably didn't start until I was in position after the tuck-dive, by which time my head must have been about six feet under already. So it sounds like I should have pre-pressurised at the surface.

But how do you tell if you're over or under pressurising unless you get to the point of feeling actual discomfort?

Maybe the ancient Greek diver idea of deliberately busting your ears so you don't have to equalize has something in it. At least then I wouldn't have to listen to that woman next door shouting at her kids ...

Bryan
 

A Brownsword

Well-Known Member
Mar 25, 2002
102
3
108
I don't try to tell if I should equalize, I just equalize constantly while changing depth. With the Frenzel technique this doesn't cost any air (except when pinching the nosepiece of the mask causes a bit to leak out! :( ), and doesn't seem to have any downsides. I swim down with one hand out stretched and the other arm tucked in close to my chest, hand near the nose. Just make sure you release the nose between equalizations or else you get a heck of a mask squeeze. :duh When doing free immersion (i.e. pulling down the line) I equalize on every pull -- not only does it ensure that I stay equalized, it helps pace my progress and makes me move slower and more relaxed.
 

fpernett

Well-Known Member
Nov 7, 2001
832
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Dry training

I equalize by pushing back and up my soft palate (free hands), and I practice every day while doing my other activities.
I have to stay out of the water for long periods:( , but when I get back to the water, don't experience equalizing problems.
Maybe you can try the same, but if you use a "hands" technique you will look a little wierd, pinching your nose at work, but, who cares.
 

thin_air

Alphabet
Sep 15, 2001
404
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brian

if you flew to get there the problem might not be with anything you did wrong, it might simply be that your whole head was dehydrated, this would cause the opening to the tubes (cant remember what they are called...) to be sticky and thus hard to equalize

good luck
 

Wishbone

Paragraph aquanaut
Jan 13, 2002
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I usually spearfish and rarely just freedive, but I had a similar problem as BryanD during my last competition few weeks ago.

It was okay when I was going down, but strange enough, I was unable to equalize on the way UP! The ruesult was a lot of pain on the surface...and a last place in the standings... :D
The only way I managed to return to normal pressure was pressing hard and rubbing behind the ear. It was obvious that the E Tube was blocked... I tried all home-made medicine techniques I know, but they didn't help. It never happened to me before so I went to a doctor.

The answer appeared to be pretty simple. I had some kind of infection on the gullet (hope to translate it right) which tapped the eustchian tube. The doctor told me that a fungi infection may cause the same problem.

But he was clueless why I was able to equalize the pressure normally when I was going down... :duh
 

BryanW

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2002
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Aaaargh! Still having problems!

Hi all

I'm posting again on this ancient thread because I'm still having problems with my eustachian tubes closing up, and wondered if anyone had any updated advice. I only go freediving for one or two weeks a year. When I do, I practice equalizing for weeks beforehand, until I can do it easily (frenzel, because valsalva doesn't work for me, my tubes are too narrow).

But when I get there it all falls apart. :(

The first few dives are fine, I equalize pretty much constantly on the way down, trying not to over or under pessurize, but after a few dives the ears tighten up to the point where descent is ridiculously slow and ears are squeaking all the time, then becomes altogether impossible. It always clears up to some extent overnight and sometimes over lunch, but again, I only get a few dives before they close up. I've tried taking sudafed, chewing gum etc but any effect is marginal.

My doctor has now suggested Cetirizine, a long-acting antihistamine. Has anyone tried this, or have any thoughts on it? Or, any other experiences or ideas?

Thanks, Bryan
 

efattah

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2001
3,294
487
173
You might want to try the proear mask (which keeps air over your ears). Otherwise, try a constant equalization (squealing your ears the whole way down), never allowing any pressure on your ears. The negative pressure inside the ear canal can suck fluids into it and cause it to swell up as well. Absence of the negative pressure by continuous equalization can minimize the problem. Air over the ears helps further.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
 

BryanW

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2002
75
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Thanks Eric. I've never heard of the Proear before, but after looking on the net it sounds interesting - I've posted a thread in Equipment asking if anyone has any good or bad experiences with it.
 

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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BryonW,

This is going to sound pretty strange, but it is an Anderson idea that I tried and it worked pretty good for people with me. Get yourself some papaya tablets from the health food store. Put two in your mouth , one per side, somewhere they will disolve real slow. Insert about 30 minutes before diving and keep'em in there the whole time you are in the water. Some of my party last year had very sticky ears and it made a big difference for them.

I don't know exactly how it works, but it appears to spread out in the mouth and throat, getting back to the eustation tubes and loosening up the valves. The effect seems to wear off pretty quick once the tablet is gone. Check the search function and a good deal of discussion will come up.

Good luck

Connor
 

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
4,006
779
218
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BryonW,

This is going to sound pretty strange, but it is an Anderson idea that I tried and it worked pretty good for people with me. Get yourself some papaya tablets from the health food store. Put two in your mouth , one per side, somewhere they will disolve real slow. Insert about 30 minutes before diving and keep'em in there the whole time you are in the water. Some of my party last year had very sticky ears and it made a big difference for them.

I don't know exactly how it works, but it appears to spread out in the mouth and throat, getting back to the eustation tubes and loosening up the valves. The effect seems to wear off pretty quick once the tablet is gone. Check the search function and a good deal of discussion will come up.

Good luck

Connor
 

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
4,006
779
218
71
BryanW,

This is going to sound pretty strange, but it is an Anderson idea that I tried and it worked pretty good for people with me. Get yourself some papaya tablets from the health food store. Put two in your mouth , one per side, somewhere they will disolve real slow. Insert about 30 minutes before diving and keep'em in there the whole time you are in the water. Some of my party last year had very sticky ears and it made a big difference for them.

I don't know exactly how it works, but it appears to spread out in the mouth and throat, getting back to the eustation tubes and loosening up the valves. The effect seems to wear off pretty quick once the tablet is gone. Check the search function and a good deal of discussion will come up.

Good luck

Connor
 

BryanW

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2002
75
5
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Connor, thanks for the advice re Papaya, I'll give it a shot.

After some experimenting in the swimming pool yesterday, I think the problem may be, as Eric pointed out, tubes closing up because of negative pressure. I tried a few "dives" to 2m after pressurising on the surface, no problem. As soon as I started then going down to the bottom of the pool without pressurising on top first, they started to close up - even though I wasn't deep enough to feel any more than a very slight discomfort.

I guess I need to make sure I pressurise on the surface and take the first few metres extra slow - because my tubes are so narrow it's difficult to keep up with their need for air even if I equalise all the time. I think in the past what's happened is that I've waited until I was in a position to start finning down before I started equalising - but even though my ears aren't hurting by then, my head is still 2m under the surface, and therefore subject to negative pressure.

But you're not supposed to over-pressurize either. How do you know if you're over-pressurising? When your ears hurt because of over-inflation?

Any more advice gratefully received: I'm sure it will help other people too.

Thanks, Bryan
 

donmoore

New Member
Aug 19, 2002
958
154
0
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Good Thead.
You know when the system messes up and posts multiple messages, you can edit and delete the extra ones. Just thought I would throw that out.

Bryan, your fears on over pressuring the eardrums are valid. It helps to understand how the pressuring works. The lower 1/3 of the estauchian tubes, where they enter the pharynx, is normally closed. Ideally the middle ear should have the same pressure as the outside of eardrum. As we descend the pressure on the outside of the eardrum becomes higher than the middle ear, thus causing the eardrum or membrane to bend in. When we equalize we are opening up the normally closed 1/3 of the estauchian tube and blowing air through it into the middle ear.

Now the membrane is delicate and sensitive to unequal pressure. There is no way we can blow just the right amount of air into middle to equalize it. But fortunately the membrane can take an unequal pressure without damage for small amounts of time, like less than a second. The more time the pressure is unequal the greater the likelihood of damage.

The estauchian tube functions as both an inlet valve and a pressure relief valve. By blowing air into the middle ear, and the letting off the pressure, the tube will allow just the right amount of air back out and then close. So that’s how you know you have the right amount of pressure in the middle ear, and that’s also why you should not, as some suggest, put pressure on the tubes for long periods of time. By pressuring for more than a second you are putting a lot more stress on the membrane, which will eventually aggravate, the whole ear, estauchian tube, and muscles, and likely cause you equalization problems later in the day.

So practice doing quick equalizations by pressuring for no more than one second. Hang over your bed so your torso is upside down. Duplicate your dives by doing several quick equalizations on a single breath, then give yourself a 2 minute rest and do it again. You will find that as you perfect your technique, especially in the shortness of the duration, you will be able to increase both the number of equalization on a single breaths and the total number of sets you can do before you start to experience difficulty. Keep a diary of your results and I beat in time you will improve.

Ear equalization is also about confidence. Dry land practice will help give you the confidence that you can equalize without problems anytime and all the time.

There are also some great depth simulating exercises you can do in a pool. We can talk about that later.

Hope this helps,
don
 

BryanW

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2002
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Don, thanks for taking the time to be so thorough. I'll try the practice you suggest and post how I get on later.

For anyone else reading this who has problems equalizing, one thing I've found is that I carry quite a lot of tension in my jaw muscles generally, and if I make a conscious effort to relax them (even imagining my jaw "melting", bizarre as that might sound) it helps. I guess that having a snorkel in your mouth a lot, even if you take it out for the dive itself, would only increase this tension.

Bryan
 

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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BryanW,

Here's another idea that should go along with Dons advice. You can hold your tubes open more or less continiously (at least on land). Listen to the sound of breathing through your nose, sounds pretty quiet and outside your head. Then equalize, open mouth seems to help, breath through your nose and listen for a loud roaring sound inside your head. When you hear that sound, your tubes are open. Practice keeping them open, should help the process.

Good luck

Connor
 
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