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Hands-free equalization

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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tropical wuss
Sep 16, 2002
Hands-free vs. Frenzel

Calling all equalization gurus!!!

As a result of Adrian's comment (weakest link thread) regarding the 'neutral position of the soft palate", I have a new question I need answering.

I have never been a big fan of the Frenzel technique [I'll get to 'why' shortly]. I have always equalized [hands-free] by flexing my throat and tongue - and when need be, swallowing. This has always worked perfectly for me at depths up to 100 feet. But when I go deeper, my neck seems to get very tight and it becomes harder to perform the hands-free technique (I actually don't even know that my method has a name :confused: ) I can still keep equalizing, but I must slow my decent in order to compensate for the 'tightness'.

Since I'm solely relying on the airpressue difference (between my lungs and eustation tubes) to equalize my ears, is my maximum depth severly limited? In other words, it is necessary to use a forceful technique (like the Frenzel) to equalize past a certain depth? Is my difficulty being caused by a squeeze on my trachea?

Hope someone can help. I've never used the Frenzel because now, after having viewed the cross-sectional diagram in E. Fattah's Frenzel paper, I think that the first time I tried it, I was blocking access to my eustation tubes with my soft palate. Eventually, I would get it to work, but it was much much easier to just use my old hand-free method, and I had no use for it....... until now :confused:?

For reference, I've attached the cross-sectional image from Eric Fattah's Frenzel article.

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That free-hands equalizing technique is BTV. I use it too, and I found very difficult to teach. Some people can't make despite the efforts. With that equalizing technique I'm able to reach 35-36 meters, but after that depth I found impossible to equalize with that technique. It's logical, because the volume of this air spaces is reduced, with the pressure.
The Frenzel technique is very useful beyond that depth (for me).
When I started diving, they taught me to equalize by pulling on the eustachians. Start swallowing to hear the click, then do it by yawning and finally direct control. After 20 years living in S. California, I had to start holding my nose to get air in my sinuses but I can usually clear my ears OK.
It took fifty years before I ventured below 100 feet(30M) and then I had to change to the new ways. Packing, negatives and form are very slow in coming but the most difficult has been controlling the 'valves'.
All my diving was done with the soft palate neutral and the epiglottis open. Then I got below residual volume for the first time, relaxed and forgot for a second, all the air returned to the lungs. To clear below 150(45) I've had to learn the mouth fill technique. If I fill my mouth at 100, there is enough air for my mask and ears at 200 but, if you open the epiglottis, even for a second, you lose it all. Part of the secret, I think, is the tongue block.
Teaching an old dog new tricks is a piece of cake compared to trying to forget a procedure that you've used for decades.
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BTV = Béance Tubaire Volontaire, the hand free equallization method described by Dr. Delonca.
You'll find more info at :this page

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fabrice said:
BTV = Béance Tubaire Volontaire, the hand free equallization method described by Dr. Delonca.
You'll find more info at :this page


The link you refer to is amazing... thank you ! :thankyou
I have over the winter become proficient in BTV, and would add to this thread that there is a way to mix mouthfill and BTV for use at depth. BTV relies on the pressure difference between the ears and the sinus cavities, with the tubes being the valve between the two. When you open your tubes, the pressure between these two spaces equalizes. That being said, the secondary task that is necessary in order to carry out BTV is to keep enough air in your sinus cavities to keep them roughly equal in pressure to the water around you.
So the thing to do is do a full mouthfill at the deepest depth that you can before BTV stops working. Close your lungs off, and apply a tongue block to trap the air on the bottom side of your tongue. Then as your sinus cavities start to cause BTV to fail, use the frenzel technique to push small quantities of air from you mouth into your sinus cavities hands free. Reapply your tongue block, and then open your tubes, transferring the necessary air into your ears. If you are capable of performing frenzel, and BTV seperately, but are unsucsessful at this just keep practicing until you develop enough calm and muscular control to do it.
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I have to agree with Jason
I born been a natural BTV freediver, but it failed around 37-38 meters, at this moment I started to use the Frenzel-Fattah technique and equalize easily, but I miss the sensation of hands-free equalization, so decide to mix the technique. I only need to presurize the oral cavity, and make the BTV, I practiced the technique and last march I did 47 without packing, filling my moouth at 28, and a slight diaphragmatic frenzel at 43. All hands free. You can also block the nose with the mask, if you don`t equalize it so often , and let it come close to your nose
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hey i can do us the 'btv' tecqunique but i find it loads easier to equalise if i hold my nose and blow at the same time sort of using both tecquniques to get the job done. is there any reason 4 this?

andy_bloomfield said:
hey i can do us the 'btv' tecqunique but i find it loads easier to equalise if i hold my nose and blow at the same time sort of using both tecquniques to get the job done. is there any reason 4 this?

"hands free equalization" can be misleading... it seems to oppose to Valsava method (holding your nose and blowing into it...)

for most people in this thread "hands free" seems to be synonimous with BTV, Frenzel-Fattah, i.e. with NO Valsalva techniques...

if you have a very strong nose-clip (paradisia like) you can do VALSALVA without holding your nose with your hand, which is highly useful in constant with no fins...

I bought some time ago a semi-strong nose-clip in Marseille which allowed me to do some VALSALVAS hands-free... with some imperfections (bubbles of air were leaking out of my nose...) ; now I decided to buy a paradisia nose-clip...

with a paradisia, you can do VALSALVA with HANDS FREE... !!!

Using both techniques just adds power. I occasionally miss a btv equalization and then grab my nose and do a frenzel to catch up. Whatever works for you. The reason it works better can have to do with weak ability to btv or you might have very tight eustacean tubes such that the valves may open but you still need some force to push the air into the middle ear. If it is weak btv, continued practice will improve performance. If it is tight tubes, a strong antihistamine will shrink the tissue and make it easier to clear. Thats just for test purposes, antihistamines don't go with diving very well.

Well, I'm starting to do freediving, and in my opinion in the beginning its a lot easier to swallow.
But if we are looking for a hands-free equalization, why not use a nose clip and use frenzel? we should be able do equalize hands-free...
different people have different apptitudes for various methods. took me 2 months to pick up frenzel. took me several more months to pick up btv. there are many reasons btv is worth learning. it doesn't require equipment. it can be done without a nose clip and without a mask. it doesn't require a person to push air anywhere; once your muscles get strong enough you can open your tubes without creating any sort of over pressure in your sinus cavities. in combination, btv makes other techniques easier. it is part of a total eq package. frenzel techniques are also.
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@ lublu
"...why not use a nose clip and use frenzel? we should be able do equalize hands-free..."

the thing is that you still need to equalise your mask.

i ´d say that "hands-free equalising" means you equalise by having control over your muscles of the e-tubes. a nose-clip is a compromise.

seb murat was giving us a good tip for practising: use a mirror to see what you are doing when you practise. that should helpo to develop muscle control.


immerlustig said:
seb murat was giving us a good tip for practising: use a mirror to see what you are doing when you practise. that should helpo to develop muscle control.
Heard that advice before here on DB.
But what would a person (let's say ME) who can't open his e-tubes accidently do infront of the mirror except to mock himself?
I have tried to distort all muscles/parts of my head already in the look for that special moment, so far to no avail.
I can hear the 'pop' when I yawn sometimes, but almost only then. That's the only reason I think I might try to gain BTV.
Any more advices?

One of the muscles involved in pulling (actually more like twisting) the eustachian tubes open is called Tensor Palatini, which snakes around under the nasal cavity and attaches to the hard palette next to the last molars right where the soft palette begins. When you 'pull' your tubes open and touch a finger to the back region of the roof of your mouth you should be able to feel this muscle tense up.

Good luck!

Peter S.
10x! never thought about probing it that way. I'll try!
I can already see myself puking infront of the mirror. :duh
Never thought that MY gag-reflex would be the one to interfere with my pastime pleasures. :hmm

The other muscle is the Levator Palatini if I remember correct.

Do you (or anyone) have a diagram of where excatly I can find it? Trying to find it just now didn't help, maybe because I can't flex it yet.

(I'll do a search for it later as well)

Try here - WARNING! Dissection pictures that may gross out some people!


pg 7, 8, 21, 34

I'm 90%+ certain that the Levator Palatini is also involved in BTV, although probably in a different role than the Tensor Palatini because it's a thicker muscle. However, there's no way I can reach around the soft palette into my nasal cavity and feel that muscle flexing. :)

Peter S.
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10X, will check it out!

I think you could reach that muscle with a coat hanger... maybe that's why pirates have hooks for....
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