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ear troubles?

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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New Member
Sep 12, 2003
I have been training for the US Freediving Nationals for months now; it has been all I have done for the past couple of months, and now I may be prevented from competing due to a strange ear malady. The doctor says it is barotrauma, but I don't agree with his prognosis, because, first, barotrauma is supposed to heal in a matter of days, whereas it has been three weeks going on four for me. Second, there is no longer any fluid behind my ear drum. The strange thing is that my eustacian tubes open fine, even when I dive, they don't close up. It's just that when I dive, I get a sharp pain, almost like someone drilling into a tooth, but not so intense. Once again, the eustacian tubes are open, and the ear seems to be equalized, it just hurts. The doctor says I did not perforate my eardrum, and there are no visible infections in the out ear.

He prescribed steroids for the inflammation. I am reluctant to take steroids due to the effect on my metabolism, but at this point I'd try just about anything.

Anybody have any suggestions? What other ear maladies do divers suffer from, which might better explain my condition, than barotrauma? Another diver friend of mine suggested that the small bones behind the ear drum can get irritated. He suggested I stop equalizing even at the surface (whereas my doctor says to equalize often to help clear out the fluid).

Anyway, I am very frustrated about it and any suggestions would be very much appreciated.
Are you sure the pain is in your ears? I find that sharp, "drilling" pain is more likely assosiacted with the "forehead sinuses" (sorry, don't know the english word). This pain can radiate too so sometimes it feels like it is coming from the strangest places (for me, neck, ears, forehead)...If this is a possibility, search the forum for threads on sinutitis.

For me at least, the pain is so intense, I cannot continue the dive. And this happens in really shallow dives as well. The best thing to do then is to give up and come back another day.
Last edited:

Some stuff came to mind so I'll continue.

Originally posted by Michael
I have been training for the US Freediving Nationals for months now; it has been all I have done for the past couple of months, and now I may be prevented from competing due to a strange ear malady.

I think this may actually be the biggest problem you have. From your post I get the feeling that you are focusing on this goal and forcing yourself to train over your bodys natural limit up to a point where you consider yourself to be a better expert than a doctor. How your body adapts to pressure is a subtle process and sometimes the best thing to do is to just let it rest. Maybe I misinterpret you, but this is the vibe I'm getting.

Also middle ear barotrauma does not, to my knowledge, heal in a few days. The pain and symptoms may go away, but for it to fully heal, you need to take a serious break from diving.

I had similar problems and have been taking a break for a week now. Today I went back into the water and found at least one thing. I have never had trouble equalizing my ears and can force air into them very late, even when it hurts a lot, and I have never failed. Thus I have learned a bad habit of equalizing far too late and seldom. Today I tried the "early and often"-approach and had absolutely no problems. I equalized once before diving and then once between every kick, before actually feeling the need to.

I don't know what your rythm is, but if you haven't tried this, give it a go. In short term it might not matter, but in prolonged "too late, too seldom"-equalizing you may cause irritation in the sinuses which in turn may cause pressure injuries even if you feel your ears equalizing just fine.

This is not to point a finger at you, but a personal observation from my self. If I focus too hard on a goal, breaking a personal best or whatever, I sometimes forget to relax myself. Realxing in crucial in preventing barotrauma or pressure related injuries. Just today I learned that I was not relaxing some part in my throat/face and was actually really tense on ascent. As soon as I released this "something", my ears equalized with a loud creaking sound. Just something to consider: give yourself a break, dive easy dives. Analyze what you may have been doing wrong and experiment with other ideas.
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