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Inner Ear Damage

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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New Member
Apr 9, 2002
I am so sad , I have lost nearly 15% of hearing on one ear, replaced with the constant ringing. Thats not the bd news however, the doctor told me that I should give up on freediving as it might make things worst. It has been 4 months and still the same. I am hoping that someone has had a similar experience and is still diving without it getting worst.
Originally posted by bluelq
I am so sad , I have lost nearly 15% of hearing on one ear, replaced with the constant ringing.

Give us a little bit of the history. Did this follow a diving-related barotrauma or other injury? What is the official diagnosis? Do you keep diving with this condition?

Follow Up

Well Here I am 1 year later and the ringing is still evident. not as loud as anymore neither as annoying but still in existence. I did have a barotrauma, from freediving, or rather from careless diving.

I was in vacation and my schedule was not the most diciplined. I stayed up till morning hours, and had a certain consumption of alc every day. Not to the point of being drunk or anything just had my 2-3 drinks for the night. I guess the drinking must of gotten to my head as I would go freediving in the afternoon. Always with a buddy and nothing too deep, 50+ feet max. But disaster striked..

I must have been no more then a few minutes in the water when I was doing some warm up dives, 30 feet.. Somewhere I am not sure where I got rather dizzy. I did not pay attention to it and continued diving. I remember being extremely dizzy to the point that I would dive and not know up from down, wihtou looking. I thought it was because of being tired, and continued diving, I actually was ready to get out of the water when I saw several fish. Spearfishing as I was, I decided to follow the fish, luckully the depth was very shallow (15-20 feet) so I continued diving. When I finally got out of the water, I had a Very Loud ringing,, I thought I had water enclosed in my ear and tried several attempts to release it:duh . I even tried a dive to about 70 feet trying to equalize and get it clear. (Somehitng the doctor said could of made things much worst)

I could equalize but with some diffuculty. Either way I went back home, and the ringing would not stop, so I went to a doctor. The doctor diagnosed a barotrauma, I had lost nearly 15% of hearing on one ear. Replaced by ringing, its like when you go to a concert and after you come home there is this sound. Well to me it is constant.

I have moved since to central US, and as result I have not had any diving opp. Left my wetsuit back home and kind of said goodbye to the whole thing. Its been a year and my ear is much better, i have tried equalizing in pools in shallow depth with relatively no difficulty. However, I am afraid not so much of losing my hearing, as instead of hearing increasing the ringing.

The condition is stable now, but further diving could be a problem. Well actually I don't know. One doctor said that such injury shows a pre-disposition, and in most cases even if the injured ear is not hurt the other ear exhibits similar problems. Another doctor said that after about a year it should be ok. One said that a torn drum would never be as strong? etc.

I guess I am hoping to find somebody who has been prof. freediving despite a similar injury. I really loved diving, and the idea of not being able to do so on a regular basis, really hurtrs.:waterwork

I also wanted to share my experience so if anyone realizes such syptoms would be smarter then me and stop diving right away. If I had stop diving , the damage would of been far less.
I’m not a professional, just a layperson who has done some study on diving ears. There seems to be a lot of disinformation on ears, and many MD don’t help clear it up. Some of the things you have said and what the doctors have told you do not add up.

The dizziness and loss of equilibrium you experienced is classis symptoms of what happens immediately following a tear in the eardrum and water entering the middle ear. This, in and of itself won’t necessary make a hearing loss. The middle ear is not where sounds are processed. That is done in the inter ear. The inter ear is filled with fluid and there is a membrane between it and the middle ear. If the membrane gets damaged, it can allow fluid to drain out of the inter ear, or air to go into it. This can cause damage to the hair like fibers in the inter ear, where sounds are processed resulting in permanent hearing loss.

Water entering the middle ear, or body fluid being drawn into it, can cause a short-term hearing loss until the body absorbs it back out. Things sound muffled like your hearing through fluid.

Damage of the membrane between the inter ear and the middle ear is caused by low pressure in the middle ear. Since the inter ear is already fluid filled, you only need to increase the pressure in the middle ear to equalize it to the inter ear. Most people and even most doctors only think of the eardrum as the one you need to equalize for.

What likely happened is you first damaged the inter ear by tearing the membrane between it and the middle ear, and then your eardrum broke causing you to get the loss of equilibrium symptoms. The breaking of the ear drum actually helped relieve the low pressure in your middle ear, thus helping to keep from damaging your inter ear further.

What the doctor said about a torn eardrum never being as strong, is correct, but some people have healed nicely to where they can continue diving with more care. If the membrane between the inter and middle ear torn, and healed well, I do not think you would suffer more hearing damage from diving with proper and often equalization. Remember I am just a layperson! The question will probably be, how strong is your eardrum?

My recommendation is to practice short quick equalizations, one after another on dry land. They need to be short and quick so no unnecessary pressure is put on the eardrum. When you release the pressure used to equalize, the excess pressure in the middle ear is bleed off by the Eustachian tube. Play a game with yourself and see how many equalizations you can do on a single breath. It’s a great way to increase breath hold and better your equalization technique at the same time. Try doing it with your head and upper body hanging off a bed so they are vertical. If it is harder for you vertical, I would only do it vertical, because that is the position you need to master.

You may find that the dry land equalizations hurt at first. In this case, quit for a few days until the pain goes away. Then concentrate on using less pressure and less time with pressure.

If the dry land equalizations don’t hurt your ears, then go to a pool and do the same thing on your descent. One right after another. Pressure, equalize, release, pressure, etc.. Equalizing in a constant rhythm will soon become habit ever time you descend. If on a descent your equalizations stop, that is where you stop and don’t go any deeper.

I hope you are able to dive again, but remember there are other things in life worth doing to. I would give these suggestions a try and see what happens.
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Thank you for such a detailed reply. So from what I understand I should not attempt to push for equalization, only if it occurs without "excessive force" should I continue. I also use the jaw technique, where I open my jaw to equalize, I don't remember what it is called, would you say that would be safer or better?

I agree there are other things in life one can enjoy. I just hope I don't have totally give up diving.
Equalization techniques open up a whole another area of discussion, but you are correct, the better you get with a technique, the less pressure you have to use and the better on ears. This is because high pressure in the middle ear, blown in through the Eustachian tubes, can damage the eardrum by pushing it out, just like it can be damaged by water pushing it in. People with weak eardrums need to especially careful to not equalizing with to much pressure.

Basically what the jaw technique is doing is flexing the tensor palatini and levator palatini muscles, which open the Eustachian tubes. The more you are able to open the Eustachian tube by muscle movement, the less air pressure you will need to open them. If you ever get to where you can open completely by muscle control, you will still need a little air pressure to bring the middle ear up to ambient water pressure at depth.

I have a feeling your going to be diving again. Just a feeling!
One more thing. What damages eardrums is pressure pushing them in or out and the length of time they have the pressure. A normal eardrum can take quite a bit of pressure when equalizing, as long as the pressure is released quickly. Hold the pressure for 10 seconds and it’s a different story.
It's possible that there has been air in your ears while you were diving and when you are going down it's pushing your eardrums out
I am impressed

Are you a doctor? You seem to know the anatomy of the ear very well. Trying to re-call the even I think I did push one occasion to equlaize a bit too hard. Either way I think I will be simply going to the open jaw technique, and very little air pushing. that should keep me somewhat safe. Of course I will check with a doctor as well.. Thank you so much for your vote of confidence, it made me feel much better. Its been a year and I still feel very strongly about it. This is the first day I have felt some hope..:)
No, I am a just a certified public accountant who has done some studying and been guided and corrected by a few people in this board. One day, after spending many hours of studying, it all fell into place. The basic mechanics of how the ear works and equalizes is really easy to understand when you have the whole picture. Most people don’t. They focus only on the eardrums without understanding the relationship of the middle ear and the inter ear, or they talk about their Eustachian tubes as if it would be great if they were opened all the time.

The Eustachian tubes are really one-way pressure-regulating valves. They open up to allow air to go into the middle ear then bleeds off the excess air, and close to retain the air pressure when the pressure is equal to the ambient water pressure. Pretty cool, uh? If it was open all the time, the air that you put into the middle ear, would come right back out the instant you quit blowing. Actually some people have this problem. Its called PET and it can make life difficult. They hear their breath in their ears and have a hard time sleeping or concentrating. They also don’t freedive.

bluelg, I wish you the best. It looks promising by the fact you have already equalized in a pool since the accident. I put a small tear in my eardrum years ago, and it healed so well the doctors can’t see it anymore.
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