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Ears. Can you hear what the Sultan is saying?

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
It can take a long time to get an up-to-date response or contact with relevant users.

icarus pacific

Nov 7, 2001
In the interests of all of us here, and maybe just me, I invite the DB membership and all your ear nose and throat certified friends to chime in on this topic.


Here's the deal- lots of space has been taken up here with the how-to's of clearing. With hands, without hands and upside down and inside out. Here's my problem, er, question-

My eustachian tubes are pretty well buggered up and the up and down of freediving leaves them more swollen than Jessica Simpson on the morning after her wedding night. Or so I've been told. Anyways... what have you experienced in the matter of reducing swelling so as to continue diving that day and the days after?

Here's a scenerio- here in the great Nor Cal where the abalone and fish are usually from the surface to 50 feet (or +/-17 meters for you euro types) it's no big deal to spend the better part of the day making the bottom and being OK to have an audible conversation at days end. But when this guy goes to Florida, Mexico or deep into So Cal, often called Mexico where the diving need to be on the order of 70 feet and more, the ears say "fini" after half a day. They do this with an audible squealing and mushy popping followed by a general shut down of the ability to even pound the air into them to clear, and at the surface at that. Them tubes is just tied so to speak. And while it's a minor bummer when you're at home and an hour from the beach, it's a definite pain in the wallet to go 3000 miles and be relegated to boat driver. Especially when the fish show up. Is it technique, is it not being used to the increased depth, is it....age?

I wanna hear, so to speak, about what you do to alleviate the swelling. What are the meds, the diets, the quaint habits and the oddball yet effective cures to gain that ease between the ears.

If you, like me, irrigate the sinuses, take over the counter meds to ease allergies, and shun dairy and still lay awake at night listening to the crickets popping behind your eardrums, this thread is for you. If you're an oldster and still banging, what's the secret other than genes? And like I said, if you've got an MD after your name on the business card, I especially invite your reply.
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Drugs that have helped in the past (please don't flame me Eric - I am almost drug free these days!)

Ibuprofen for swelling
Sudafed for congestion
Antihistamine for congestion ( I take Zirtek for allergies and found out kind of by accident that it also helped sticky ears sometimes)

Other things that help:

Facial massage
Hot water blast on the face in the shower for a few minutes pre dive - relaxes everything and seems to work
Loads of head and neck stretches
Equalising gently on the surface before the duck dive
Equalising early and often so your bits don't get swollen in the first place
Keep off the cheese and ice cream
Wash your ears out with fresh water and maybe a bit of vinegar after diving

and most of all

very regular freediving.. opens everything up so equalisation is normal rather than trauma!

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I've tried everything that both Sam and Svne are saying and I have had the best luck with some allergy meds, Alavert, and the sinus flushing, using a Neti pot.

In addition to no dairy I would add in no sugar. Too much white sugar, from all of those Krispy Kreams on the way out to the dive site, builds up mucous.

If my ears start getting clogged halfway through my day I take a BIG drink of water and give my nose a good "farmer blow", as we say in Wisconsin;) , to clear things out for more diving.

I was going to add in the Farmer Blow but it didn't sound ladylike!!

Thank God we don't have Krispy Kremes in the UK!!

Travel flu

Most likely the xtra 20 ft is not the culprit, for what you do at 50 you do at 70. Same drill.

As competition freedivers have known for a while, travelling, and time zone changes especially, trigger a muggy travel flu. This can be real flu as obtained from airports and other travellers, "Sars" and the like and its less fatal coccii's, secondly but no less deadly to divers.. " time shift muggy face " aka Jet lag.

Whilst i domicile not in your neck of the woods, i believe your journey took you four hours into the future. Sounds little but this is plenty warp believe me.
Your face thinks its 2 in the morning when you are in reality suiting up or standing on the beach waiting to launch. Now how does your face feel at 2 in the morning ?
Your body knows to make the stuff that cloggs your ears at 2 in the morning because it knows that any other time you will blow the stuff out.

Simple. You now have stickier ears.

What to do ?


Day one take one Sudafed but only one. Use sunblock and a
drop of swimmers ear at night.
Day two take one sudafed but only one. Use sunblock and a
drop of swimmers ear at night.
Day three eat Choc chip yogurt liberally, wash your hair with Gill, condition well and use less sunblock. No more sudafed, for she is milked out by now and no more working.
You are now confident and grooved, have opened your account and are smooth and styling.


Know the "devil" and you will persevere over performance anxiety, a large factor in equalisation.
Equalise earlier and more often as the pressure on th East coast is higher at sea level than on the West coast you know, because of the banking up of all the air against the East coast due to the rotation of the earth.
Blow and spit the stuff out constantly taking advantage of the reverse bubbling in the ears on ascent to suck and spit like a hayfever sufferer.
Always pre - equalise on the surface before ducking.
And did i mention, always use sunblock.

This will help.


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Greetings oh royal one, you can be driver on my boat any time.

Anyway, can't say I know any more than you, but here are a couple of ideas. Doesn't seem like 70 is all that much different than 50, except that maybe the lungs are getting smaller and it takes a little more effort to clear, ie more stress on the tissue. Could it be something else, difference in water temp for example, or how much suit you wear, hood vs no hood?

Dehydration might be sneaking up on you in tropical waters, so drinking a lot might really help.

Of couse, the All-American solution is drugs. Steroids come in various forms, most are pretty powerful and can be habit forming, but some work wonders on inflamation. I used cortizone pills once to cure (like magic) some totally closed off sinuses. Hadn't been able to dive at all for a month. Flonase, a corticosteroid nasal spray designed to reduce alergy inflamation, or possibly several other, similar drugs might work. Most of the ones I know of are slow acting, long term dosage types and might not do for you, but get a doctor to advise. Might be something else in the same drug family that would work short term

Here is a wierd one. Took a friend of mine last summer who has real trouble clearing even in 30 feet after a half day. He's been spearing close to 40 years and has tried just about everything. We were diving down a line (his first time) and he was hitting 70-80 no problem, even in the afternoon. By far the deepest he ever dove. No idea why, but maybe you should get to like line diving.

Oh yeah, Skin is right on the sun block. Sunburn causes general inflamation that will surely affect your ears .

Good luck with the problem, I hope some MD's chime in.

Re: Travel flu

Originally posted by Skindiver
How does your face feel at 2 in the morning ?

You are confident and grooved, have opened your account and are smooth and styling.


S'true indeed! :king I agree with everyone so far and as I made mention, all the meds and irrigation are de riguer . And I'm even going to cop to performing the Farmer Hanky when hundreds of miles from anything even remotly resembling the Ocean. :ycard

In my case anyway, and this may pertain to others as well, as this thread isn't just about me :eek: but don't tell her that, it's not a feeling of congestion, but one of feeling the tubes just swelling shut from the abuse.

And I'll preface the inevitable diagnosis of deliberate over pressurizing of the tubes by freely admitting that I clear the breath before I roll, and then when I roll as well as within the first few feet and then before the discomfort registers making me go at it again, and then never to the point of really blowing hard- just enough to get the job done. I 'll maybe add to the diagnosis by letting on that when at the bottom, if I go three feet down a crack, I have to clear as well- I'm not blessed to be able to establish and let it go for the remainder of the dive, so that on a usual venture here, the nose gets pinched several times.

Keep the thoughts, rituals and beauty secrets coming folks. Theres most likely some other poor schmuck you're helping out too. :cool:
even tho i am still young, just 19, the problematic ear issue started when i was eleven, after some pretty bad dives, along with a cold and a dirty swimming pool. anyway, i have been having problems since then, but not when i dive with equalising the pressure all the way down, not that i go too deep, generaly i keep it down to around 10 to 15 meters, i have been at 20ish, that was fine, and no problems after it too, its just when i get sick that i get this awfull pain, not just that, it can often make either of my ear go totaly deaf....
Re: Here's what I do...

Originally posted by jeff.richardson

Anyway, my medicine of choice is "Tussin" (the generic form of Robitussin). I like it because it's only effect is to loosen things up, it does nothing to my heart rate (like sudafed does), or give me that detached feeling of heavy duty decongestants. My theory is that by making the congestion more viscous, my tubes can then get more flexible so clearing is more effective.

I like taking the "CF" type of Tussin

The decongestant you are referring to us Guafinisin (sp?) and it does work great for clearing up whatever has you clogged up. I would recommend grabbing some pills containing ONLY that as the active ingredient, especially if you are taking other meds, because it is often packed with pseudoephedrine which raises your heart rate, and Dextromethorphan HBr which is a cough depressant, acting by actually messing with some of your brains most basic controls over your body, and as far as I can tell, noone has done any research into the possible side effects at 70 feet while holding your breathe.
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Sorry I missed this thread. This is my guess on what is happening. Technique is culprit. Specifically you need to incorporate mouth filling with your deep dives. You see when you dive to 50 feet the volume of air in your thoratic region is compressed to about 40% of what it was at the surface. Even less if you equalized your mask from this air, which you probably did, so just for example sake, lets say 28% left. If you’re good at equalizing with the frenzel you can probably still do it with this amount of air.

At 70 feet you’re at about 30% volume left and after the equalizing the mask probably less than 20%. You probably can’t fully equalize your ears at this point so you are stretching the ear drum a little and making the middle ear pressure negative so it is drawing fluid into it (swelling) which is going to effect the estauchian tubes and cause equalization problems the rest of the day.

What you need to do is a reverse pack and bring some more air up from the lungs into your mouth. There are some great ways to learn and practice this they taught us in the PFD clinic. First, on land, let all your air out of your mouth and with holding the epiglottis closed try to equalize. It should be difficult. Then with pinching the nose suck some air up into your mouth. With a full mouth you should be able to equalize no problem. Now do the same procedure by exhaling fully. This will be more similar to a dive, because your lungs will have less volume at depth. What you will be doing with a full exhale is pulling air up from your reserve capacity of the lungs.

Now you need to go to the deep end of a pool and do it. Its much harder doing it diving, because when your inverted the air wants to go from the mouth to the lungs so you really have to learn to suck it up and hold it by closing the epiglottis. Sit on the side of the pool at the deep end. Exhale ½ way with no air in your mouth and dive. Keep inverted (stand on your head) at the bottom and practice the reverse packs. You can push the air out of your mouth and reverse pack again. Practice sucking the air from your lungs into your mouth.

Keep doing the same procedure by exhaling more and more before diving. With some practice you can even start doing reverse packs after a full exhale before the dive. This will really improve your deep diving equalization. It will also stretch your diaphragm and make you more adaptable to handling the chest squeeze from deep diving. Kirk Krack said in a 15’ pool you can simulate equalization at 270 feet by doing this!

This should really help your deep diving equalization.
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Skindiver has it down.....

Skindiver, you've got my attention with your insights about jet-lag, time zone changes, generalized effects of sunburn, and '2am muggy face'.....thank you! :king
cdavis, I agree about the effectiveness of Flonase :cool:
don, the reverse packing sounds like it's based on the principles related to air-pressure at depth, as much as the mechanical stretching of the eustachian tubes (or at the very least, the anatomical areas immediately around them) w/the maneuvers you describe: is that correct? How often do you practice this?
jeff.richardson/ActiveMatrix, the Robitussin/Guaifenesin** sounds like a good idea too. I'll give it a whirl. :D
Jeez....we're all begining to sound like geezers, aren't we? "Hey.....anyone got some aspirin....nasal spray......sunblock.....ear drops.....laxative?" :eek:


**From Medicine Plus Information:"Guaifenesin thins the mucus in the air passages and makes it easier to cough up the mucus and clear the airways, allowing you to breathe more easily. It relieves the coughs of colds, bronchitis, and other lung infections."
You can buy it fairly inexpensively online at: https://www.immunesupport.com/shop/

Please note: Upon reading and doing a bit of a search, I've found Guaifenesin is used for the treatment of fibromyalgia. I strongly recommend reading Dr. R. Paul St. Amand's article 'Guaifenesin Treatment' , since taking Guaifenesin has other effects...not necessarily bad ones, but worth noting. http://www.vulvarpainfoundation.org/guaifenesin_treatment.htm
[[There are other articles about guiafenesin; apparently it is used in detoxification regimens. The above article was brief and clear, sorry about the foundation link(!)]]
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don, the reverse packing sounds like it's based on the principles related to air-pressure at depth, as much as the mechanical stretching of the eustachian tubes (or at the very least, the anatomical areas immediately around them) w/the maneuvers you describe: is that correct? How often do you practice this?
Cynthia, that is correct. It seems to me that if Sven’s problem was anatomical, he would be experiencing the same problems in his 50 and less dives. 50 + is right about were a person runs out of air in the throatic area and needs to draw more air up from the lungs. Any of the good remedies for reliving congestion, stretching, etc., may help, but my guess is if he isn’t having problems in 50 feet and less, increasing air volume would be the most beneficial.

Kirk and Martin said to practice it every time you go to a pool or get in the water, because besides helping your equalization technique it also helps invoke the dive reflex, which is a learned response. Deep-water simulation by exhaling stimulates the dive reflex more than just about anything else. They said the goal is to have the dive reflex so natural that when you see water you will want to expel some liquid (pee) ;) and your heart rate will fall.

One important warning I left out! Don’t stay at the bottom of a pool fully exhaled and reversed packed for more than 10 seconds! If you do you run the risk of getting plasma in the lungs, which is harmless, but will affect your lung function until it is absorbed back into the body, which could be an hour or more.
fibromyalgia... they also treat that with antidepressants... because it is almost always completely psychosomatic... so you give them some pills, tell them they'll work, and boom! pain goes away. Sugar pills work wonders as well.
Originally posted by donmoore
This is my guess on what is happening. Technique is culprit. don

Uh no, but glad you took notes at the clinic. :) Good info though and I'm sure that more than a few will benefit. I'm with Cynthia here, where the travel and time changes did a number on me as did expectations. I mean I get to dive FL conditions once or twice a year and the rest of the time is spent wanting to. :head

I am following a sort of regimen at the moment, kindly provided by DB's latest Fijian ambassador ( veeeery smooth btw :cool: ) where intake before hitting the sheets, and caffeine are both no-no's. :naughty Yeah, no bean. :waterwork I think the buggered sinuses are easier than not partaking of Bill's local export. Maybe I can convince her to put that info here. That's a hint...

But here's what is really going on, at least according to a person of letters and white lab coat- my ear drums and the tubes look like a roadmap and a grenade test with scar tissue and the like. Meaning that the little stuff that a Farmer Hankie will take care of for you blessed types, tends to really bugger the ears and hence the clearing. Sure it's fine for the first 50' and a couple dozen dives, and then it's much like that joke where the guy tell's the Doc that it hurts when he clears..."so don't clear, schmuck!" And so lies the dilemma. A couple of unscheduled pressure hammers in the helmet in years past hasn't helped and a whole lotta years of general idiocy prior have served to make the tubes wholly unreceptive to any unnecessary tweaking. :crutch

And so while I'm going to keep this thread going in the hopes that some Nobel prize winning laureate can hook me up, it's more of a sounding board for those lucky enough to have solved their ear tube issues and hopefully those just cruising around here, (hear? :hmm ) can gain some insight and benefit. In the meantime I'm going to see if some ministrations from a much younger nursing student will help.

And then she can work on my ears. :king

Oh and by the way- the Caption Contest is back on.
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Originally posted by icarus pacific
In the meantime I'm going to see if some ministrations from a much younger nursing student will help.
And then she can work on my ears. :king

--At least it will take your mind off the ear discomfort...:eek:

--:waterwork I have quit caffeine too, Sven. I feel your pain.

---Say, anyone on this Forum had an AUDITORY CANAL EXOSTECTOMY performed on one or more ears? It is indicated for Surfer's Ear (Bony Exostosis)***
It would be valuable to know how the surgery worked for you, as well as what your doctor recommended to help you return to diving.

When you've been diving (or surfed) to the extent that your ears gradually produce a thick layer of bone that lines the auditory canal. It's a protective reaction to cold water. Over time, this layer squeezes the canal closed. The net result is deafness.
Read on...
***"Surfer's Ear (Bony exostosis)
This is a blockage of the inner portion of the ear canal by a bony growth called exostosis. This is more commonly seen in surfers, but occasionally can be seen in cold water divers. It is thought to be due to the cooling effect of evaporating water on surfers - and on the effect of cold water on divers. It can cause problems in divers by blocking the egress of cerumen and thus the canal, producing the possibility of an external ear squeeze, decreased ability to ewqualize, alternobaric vertigo and caloric vertigo.

Prevention is by the use of ear plugs in surfers and hoods or vented ear plugs in divers.
Definitive treatment is by an operative procedure called canalectomy - or the excision of the bony area of the ear canal that is blocking the canal."
See also http://www.earaces.com/surfear.htm
--from http://www.scuba-doc.com/entprobs.html#ENT_Anatomy

[[Thanks, Sultan...I look forward to 24 days in Paradise/Fiji :inlovedoing clinics in remote corners and getting into the water whenever possible in-between.]] I refuse to allow caffeine prevent my enjoyment of any time spent freediving...but it's not fun to give up the bean.....Now where's that jar of Postum!?:p
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