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Fill ear with fluid?

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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New Member
Jan 2, 2004
Any doctors around to answer a question? I am thinking, purely hypothetical, would it be possible to fill the ear with some sterile fluid? (in a professional way at a hospital of course) That would then make equalizing unneccessary and the only limit would be how much blood shift you can manage and how long you can swim.. Constant weight would transform into dynamic, just vertical instead of horizontal :)

Would this impact the hearing much? My (layman) theory is that water transmits sound as good as air, so if all the ear is filled (and the eardrum is not broken and no other injury has occured) hearing would not be much impaired..

Is this just craziness, or could it actually work? (i know, to actually do it would be craziness..)
Let me take a WAG at this one. If the inner ear was filled with a non compressible fluid, sound waves would not be able to move the eardrum much. Hearing would be reduced big time. In my case, clearing wouldn't be much easier. The other 10 air sacs (sinuses) are harder to deal with than the ears. Plastic surgery to increase the amount of 'face' that you put in the mask would probably be more effective and not much more expensive.
Tongue in cheek

Plastic surgery to increase the amount of 'face' that you put in the mask would probably be more effective and not much more expensive.

...just tried imagining what that looks like

This is what Pipin does during his dives, and he has taught the 'wet' equalizing technique to others as well. He uses seawater, which can result in infections, and apparently it takes a few days for the fluid to escape.

But, you must fill more than the ear canal. If you only filled the ears, then your sinuses would collapse and implode, since they are filled with air, and below a certain depth your throat collapses, sealing off the lungs from the sinuses... at that point, the lungs continue to compress, but the sinuses cannot, unless equalized or filled with fluid.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
Any documents on the 'wet' equalization technique. I would be VERY interested to learn it.. How do you draw the water in without opening the glottis and risking aspiration? Do you use your tongue as a reverse piston?
The principle is simple. Take a deep breath, close your lips with a little air in your mouth and put your face in the water (no mask). Now, by closing your mouth, force the air out your nose and without moving anything else, move your jaw and you can pull water into your mouth through your nose and back out again. Great for flushing out all the goo, but only slightly less uncomfortable than the CO2 tables.
Caution the next step could hurt like H. While you're pushing the water out, pinch your nose and shove some into the inner ear. Pool water seems to hurt more than sea water, I never tried fresh water and it is a great way to get an ear infection. You could also gag in the process and drown, especially if you try it at depth without a lot of practice.
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Sounds like fun! :duh

I already get my sinuses full of water, not on purpose, but I don't mind and it doesn't cause any problems.

I was interested because equalising is probably going to be a big problem for me. I have never done depths because all my freediving has been in the pool so far. I can only do BTV, the Valsalva doesn't work at all for me, and I haven't managed to learn the Frenzel.

Maybe one day...if I'm feeling very brave...

Thanks for explaining

Stuff I heard from various sources, and my accidental expirience with that:

Originally posted by Bill
and it is a great way to get an ear infection.
I heard of some one trying that and getting chronic ear infections. Last time I heard it was over a year and he still couldn't freedive normally.

What I was told is that it is supposed to be done in great depth where water are supposed to be clean (or cleaner), but also because the body produces mucus that might help to protect the sinus cavities from infection, though not the middle ear, I don't know if there's any mucus production there.

I also heard that some deep divers like pippin take antibiotics for a couple of days after doing wet eq. to prevent an infection.

Another thing I understood is that they do it while descending (in the actual dive, not as preprations for the dive), and let the negative pressure built to do some of the job for flooding the sinuses.

What I expirienced is accidentaly equalizing while having water up my nose/sinuses from swimming without a mask in our sea (which is usually not very clean).
The sensation is called 'pain', and it just feels wrong in every aspect. In a few cases the water took a few days to clear out completly from the middle ear, and there was a slight pain "projecting" itself above the ear.

Flooding pre-dive with "safe" fluid won't do the whole job I think, because it'll flow out of the sinuses with gravity - unless you a clip or a mask full of it, and even then it could flow to the mouth.
Same case for the fluid in the middle ears I think, every time you swallow for example.

I'de be happy to get more exact information for wet equalization, but I cannot imagine me ever needing to use it, or having it worth the risk for a few more meters on a line.
Re: Stuff I heard from various sources, and my accidental expirience with that:

Originally posted by DeepThought
or having it worth the risk for a few more meters on a line.

I had the impressoin you could gain very much depth with wet equalization, not just a few meters..?
Very interesting and danger technique I should say... Personally, I will not be using it (i think...)
are there any safer things to do?
learning mouthfill technique and working on improving its efficiency (plus maybe some easy packing) should be plenty for 60-70m dives, i guess.
i don't believe that starting to learn a more sophisticated technique without having mastered the more basic ones is the way to go.
i'd rather switch to goggles than flooding my ear and sinuses. but then again, i'm not diving that deep either...

Re: Re: Stuff I heard from various sources, and my accidental expirience with that:

Originally posted by sumpa
I had the impressoin you could gain very much depth with wet equalization, not just a few meters..?
That would not gain you any depth, UNLESS the depth limit you had was caused by equalization. If that was the case, as Roland said, there are better and safer techniques out there, not to mention equipment.
Eric fattah has calculated the mouthfill technique (frenzel-fatah) to be able to take him down to 195 meters (or some other amazingly greate number).
I also mentioned the word "line" there, to emphesis that it has no use for recreational diving, which is the main goal in freediving for me.
Swim down to at least 30 ft (for the pressure), take off your mask(and in an upright position ) and tilt your head as far back as you can, now take you tounge and try to touch the back of your throat with the tip of your tounge, this will fllod your sinuses......make sure you have somebody with you the first few times, people complain mostly about the anxiety rather than the discomfort.

by surfacing you will lose approx. 1/4 of what you put in there but there is still a great advantage, you will have to equlize alot less. i have never gotten any infections......always just used basic swimmers ear drops after......i do live in south florida, water is pretty clean here, especially out deep. not sure if that matters, did it in hawaii also with no problems.
There is a way to do 'wet' equalizing techniques more safely (in terms of infections).

You can use sterile saline solution (like for contact lenses), which contains antibacterial agents. You fill your sinuses on the surface and then put a nose clip on.

I came up with a different wet equalizing technique in late 2003 as a method to equalize during FRC dives, beyond the mouthfill depth. Even for me, a perfect mouthfill on an FRC dive gets me to only 70m. So, the idea is to have a cup of saline on the surface. You inhale (last breath), or, in the case of FRC, exhale, then, tilt your head back and pour the saline into your mouth. Then start the dive. You equalize with air, normally, in the first few meters, keeping the water in your mouth. Then, around 20m, you do a partial somersault and open your soft palate, allowing the water to flow from your mouth into your sinuses. Then, you close your soft palate, sealing the water into your sinuses. Then, you tilt your head back, and equalize, but if done properly no water gets into your ears, because the angle of your head prevents it.

This is the most difficult equalizing technique ever invented. Even having mastered the mouthfill, it took me many hours and weeks of practice and still I couldn't do this technique while still relaxed. There is a huge gag reflex which occurs when you allow the water to flow from the mouth to the sinuses---DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS WITHOUT PROPER SAFETY! You could easily DROWN! I first practiced it on land many times, and then had my buddy follow me all the way down to 20m to grab me if I chocked on the water.

The watersuck technique, if mastered, has some advantages:
- Can be done in AIDA rules (with a mask)
- No water in the eutachian tubes
- No chance of infection (sterile saline), even if you screw up

Of course, because you don't get water into your eustachian tubes, the ultimate depth limit of this technique is less than the Pipin technique.

However, with a 192m limit for standard mouthfill, I calculated that the watersuck technique increases your depth limit by about 40%, so about 269m. If you want to go deeper than that, then you can use Pipin's technique.
Originally posted by efattah
- No chance of infection (sterile saline), even if you screw up
There's a huge amount of bacterias in the mouth, so in theory, there could be some bacteria in the mouth that might cause sinus infections. Very slim chances though.

Interesting technique none-the-less. :)
Okay, this isn't as extreme as some of the methods you guys have been discussing, but I think interesting nonetheless.

Earlier this summer I had a really back ear infection. This was partially caused (according to my doctor) by an equalizing problem which resulted in blood and other bodily fluids being pulled into the inner ear to compensate for the negative pressure.

I started thinking about it and as I see it this was essentially a blood shift similar to those you experience in the lungs. I've wondered whether or not this could be developed and used to limit the amount of air space that needs to be equalized in the ear on a regular basis. While probably only a small difference, the though intrigued me.


Not the same thing. Ear has a much different ratio of compressability. And leaking blood is not what a blood shift is. It is what a lung squeeze is, and it is really bad. Doesn't sound impossible, but I don't know how the circulatory is distributed in the ear. Doesn't sound very advisable regardless.
MaxV/MinV is the ratio of compression. For the lungs this is about 4 or so. V = MaxV / (([Depth in meters] + 10)/10) = (10 * MaxV)/(D+10). dV = -(10 * MaxV) / (D + 10)^2. This all holds true until you descend far enough that Volume is near MinV. At that point the suppressed Volume changes turn into pressure. The amount of that pressure is related to the amount of volume change that is being suppressed. So if the ratio for the ear cavities is significantly lower than the ratio for the ears, then without equalization, the amount of pressure exerted on the circulatory system increases much quicker because it is experienced at a much shallower depth. Maybe at 40m you could find a good balance, and descend slowly enough so that you could cause a blood shift, but it is unlikely that such a technique would be effective in shallow water.
Seals and other marine mammals 'equalize' their ears by simply allowing the capillaries in the inner ear to swell with blood, just like the alveoli swell with blood -- under proper operation, no blood enters the lungs, but the alveoli swell in size. Likewise, under proper operation, a seal's eustachian tubes swell up, without any capillaries breaking.

I can personally say that if I dive many days in a row, while stressing my ears, my ability to dive without equalizing increases dramatically. Perhaps the capillaries are swelling?

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada