• Welcome to the DeeperBlue.com Forums, the largest online community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing. To gain full access to the DeeperBlue.com Forums you must register for a free account. As a registered member you will be able to:

    • Join over 44,280+ fellow diving enthusiasts from around the world on this forum
    • Participate in and browse from over 516,210+ posts.
    • Communicate privately with other divers from around the world.
    • Post your own photos or view from 7,441+ user submitted images.
    • All this and much more...

    You can gain access to all this absolutely free when you register for an account, so sign up today!

equalisation problems starting off

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.


Well-Known Member
Jul 10, 2003
I am just getting into freediving after reading an article on Pipin and Audrey Ferreras. I am fairly fit I compete at world level in kickboxing and I train about 4 hours every day between weights and cardio and sparring.

I am looking for some advice on equalisation.. For the last two weeks a training partner and I have been practising in a local lake. He has got to 13.5 metres but I have only gotten to 8 before the pain in my ears makes me turn back. My apnea is longer than his but he is able to equalise and i cant seem to. I used to have sinus problems when younger and I am not sure if that is the problem. My nose was never blocked anytime I went diving. I have tried holding my nose and blowing but my ears don't seem to pop.

Any suggestions would be appreciated as there doesnt seem to be any freedivers in Ireland to ask.

I really want to go further (and deeper) in this beautiful sport.

Any and all help is appreciated.

Equalising is pretty much the most difficult part of freediving. especially as a newbie. Many of the world record holders are not held back by their ability to hold their breath, but rather every time they reach a limit, it is because they need to find another way to equalise on the very small amount of air they may have available.
The simplest way to equalise as a newbie is the basic pinch-your-nose-and-blow method. This is i'm sure what you are sticking to.
The problem is that as humans, our eustatian tubes are frankly crap. A very poor design, but never mid, we have to work with what we have. Bear in mind that their design means that you may be blowing and nothing moves, but a little incrase in pressur may clear the blockage and burst your ear drum at the same time. so always be gentle, dont go overboard or you could do some serious damage
Before i get into this remember that freeidiving is not a pain sport, it is not like long distance running or something where you know you are going to be in agony after the race. With freediving, if it ever hurts, anywhere, stop and have a think. Properly done, it is the most relaxing sport i can think of (unless you count those pseudo-spiritual things like chi-gung etc. If it hurts, you're doing it wrong.
Right now back to the basics.
your eustacian tubes get filled with gunk and mucous that protect all your funky sensitive nasal bits etc. If you have a cold or allergy or anything, these mucous glands go into overdrive and if you are really bunged up, there is almost nothing you can do about it so i'd reccomed a no diving day. ( you can use decongestants, but these also irritate your sensitive emmbranes and sometimes can do as much harm as good, but it's up to you. until you know what your own tubes are really like, i'd stick to the natural methods.)
as you can tell, i'm at a bit of a loose end at the moment which is why you are getting the full essay length answer, bastard in the lab won't come back with the results of my amino racemization analysis. but enough of that.

where was i. oh yes. the eustatian tubes are very soggy and flexible, so if your neck is bent to the left, the chances are the left hand tube will be creased up and no matter how hard you blow, you wont get any air through. So bending you neck to the left will collape your left tube, but strech you right one, allowing easier passage of air. What i am getting at is that moving your head around may allow you to clear each ear individually.

Some people find equalisation easy and some don't. it's pretty much that simple and once you get past the simple pinch and blow technique, teaching it is almost impossible, some people just have to click their jaw to clear and others may never be able to get below 2 metres.

The only secret is, dont force it, it will come with practise.

If you have a more specific query, post it and i may have an equally slack hour when i have nothing to do.
  • Like
Reactions: Shadowkiller
Thanks will try the head movement this week to see if it helps.

Hi Colinos,

Welcome to freediving!

My friend Eric Fattah wrote this document a long time ago. It's a must read for equalizing. http://www.ericfattah.com/frenzel.doc

Basically, pinch and blow is the least useful equalizing technique. As a kickboxer, it sounds like you have the patience and discipline to sit down in your room for some hours and learn how to do Frenzel, which is the best technique to use, unless you can naturally equalize some other way. It is more relaxing and less energy intensive than pinch and blow (valsalva).

Also, something you could do is invest in a descent line, weight it with enough weight so that you can pull yourself down slowly, ie. one metre every couple of seconds. Once you perfect a dry Frenzel, then go back to the water. Focus all your attention on relaxing your whole body, and equalize with the Frenzel every time you feel any pressure change in your ears. Most beginners swim down way too fast. Ideally, you want to keep the pressure constantly equalized. The faster you descend, the more stress you put on the eardrum and the more likely you are to get a blockage. Doing this kind of repetitive free immersion will also teach you how to relax and you will enjoy your dives a lot more in the beginning. But do learn Frenzel. Pinch and blow can actually damage your ear drum and it can also cause mild lung squeeze if you strain too much.

Another thing to watch out for: if you are looking where you are going on the descent, this can restrict the movement of air in the eustachian tubes. Mark you descent line every 5m with unique markers so you know where you are. Look straight at the line and not at the bottom.

Practice reaching the same depth over and over again with clean equalizations before going deeper.

Hope this helps!

Pete Scott
Vancouver, BC
Last edited:
Thanks Davon for your comment on "head movement technique"
:mad: ) it helped me a bit. Actually, I had to experiment with various neck leaning angles and then I finally found a position to my right where it somehow allows for the right click in my ears..
It sounds like your not equalizing at all. If this is the case, don’t even get in water until your proficient at it on the land. 8 meters is way to deep to go without equalizing. You’re very lucky you didn’t break or damage an eardrum.

When you get proficient at doing it on land, lay on a bed with your head and upper body hanging off and try to master it in the upside down position too.

It’s the number one problem people have in diving and many hurt themselves before they understand how important it is. The goal with diving is to have no ear pain, not how much you can tolerate. Permanent damage happens well before any pain threshold, especially if you’re an athlete used to pain, not to mention a kick boxer!
Good luck,
Originally posted by donmoore
8 meters is way to deep to go without equalizing. You’re very lucky you didn’t break or damage an eardrum.

Exclamation Point!

Don's right, Colin. You're fortunate to not have done some major damage. Maybe your other activities give you a higher pain-threshold than most, as that should have felt like an icepick going in your ear.

Pete's advice is right on....tesitfy -> My girlfriend had problems equalizing. She all but gave up on freediving :waterwork. But with the help of a training line, she has been making nice progress. The line will allow you to hold yourself down (so you don't keep bobbing to the top) while you practice your eq.

And welcome to DB :).

Last edited:
my wife, who has always had trouble with one ear but has on occassion cleared both of them, is usually exhausted by the time they clear (or don't clear) when she is on a decent line. Several days ago I ordered one of those Pro Ear 2000 supposedly self equalizing masks.. (without asking any questions here about them).. anyway, I'm hoping that will alleviate her trouble. Her son too, has trouble and maybe it will help him also. I'm blessed with the ability to equalize easily and quickly.
BUT.. one thing that did help my brother is that he always thought that after the one ear cleared that the 1st one to clear would be damaged if he kept trying to "pop" the other one so he never dared put the pressure to the second ear required to clear it. One day I realized what he was doing and told him, just go for it.. you'll not generate enough pressure to blow out the first one that equalized.. and sure enough.. now he has not trouble and has become my best buddy for diving.. to bad he doesn't live closer.
Just a thought to add to the already excellent advice ... One mistake I made early on was to wait until I felt ear pressure during descent to try to equalize. By the time you feel pressure or pain, however, it can very well be too late. So you have to stay ahead of the curve, by equalizing before you actually start off from the surface and then frequently thereafter.

Besides that, if you're trying techniques from Eric Fattah's article and other sources and it's not working, you probably ought to see an ear-nose-throat doctor to see if there's anything about your sinus/ear situation that makes it especially difficult. I've had challenges with equalizing and sinus blocks (the latter being strong pains in the front of the face on descent) at various times over the past couple of years. The doctor concluded that although I have a fairly deviated septum, straightening it wouldn't particularly help with the blocks. After trying a lot of different self-treatments I've settled on regular saline washes in the nose to keep the sinuses and eustachian tubes cleaned out, then a couple of days before diving start hitting it with a prescription steroid spray like Flonase, and then on diving day get a dosing of Afrin spray (this can lead to rebound and habituation if you overuse it, but docs have told me occasional use is okay). Knock on wood, this has left my ears and sinuses very comfortable the last few times I've been in the water.
Another helpful hint is to practice on land like you will be in the water. Don's idea about getting upside down is good. Another one is to do several equalizations on the same breath. So many people will do, one and then say, I got it, but you need to be able to do several consecutively when you dive.
  • Like
Reactions: donmoore
DeeperBlue.com - The Worlds Largest Community Dedicated To Freediving, Scuba Diving and Spearfishing


ISSN 1469-865X | Copyright © 1996 - 2024 deeperblue.net limited.

DeeperBlue.com is the World's Largest Community dedicated to Freediving, Scuba Diving, Ocean Advocacy and Diving Travel.

We've been dedicated to bringing you the freshest news, features and discussions from around the underwater world since 1996.