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Post-dive ears

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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1 Tadpole

I'd rather play than work
Jul 27, 2002
I did some freediving this past Saturday! It was a great time. Nothing that was pushing my limits in terms of depth or time. No problems with equalizing or anything. Saw some nice jelly fish and a couple of big fish dispite the low vis.

After the dive I experience some "crackling" in one ear when I swallow. No pain. This occured in the evening, Sunday and continues today (Monday).

I've had this happen before after some pool time and thought I'd table the question in the forum.
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Hi there Tadpole,

What you're describing sounds like water trapped in your ear. Likley, some wax build-up is keeping it in there. Getting the wax out is a solution, but you might want to avoid syringing it out, because wax protects your eardrum from cold water and other nasties.

Just soften the wax with olive oil and cotton balls for a day or two.

My unprofessional advice,

Vancouver, BC
water in the ear

If you still have water in the ears after a dive or swimming, you can verify it by nodding your head quickly and/or bowing down repidly and coming up again in one movement. This lets you hear the water gurguling aroud in there.

As Laminar says the wax may block it, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it is completely blocked by a solid wall of wax. It can be partially blocked and the surface tension of the water keeps it trapped inside.

A couple of drops of alcohol in each ear with an eye dropper will break the surface tension causing the water to leak out. The alcohol dries up immediately. Don't wait to get water out of the ears as the flesh inside softens up after a couple of days creating good conditions for bacterial growth and ear infections.

Some people are irritated by alcohol so just use a couple of drops, no more. Another formula is to use vinegar and alcohol in equal amounts. The vinegar acts as a disinfectant.

I used to have lots of ear infections as a kid from being always in the water, and since a doctor told me how to dry out the ears I have had no more infections.

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Thanks for the helpful replies Pete and Adrian.

Be safe. Have Fun.

I probably think of some mucus in the inner ear. The mucus could be from the eustachian tube. It is nothing serious, but you could treat it with ACC ((N-)Acetylcysteine), it is a mucolytic and it makes the mucus more fluid, cause it brakes up the disulfid bridges in the mucus, or (and) with simple nose drops. The drops have a decongestant effect on the mucous membrane and the fluids can run out. If there is pain envolved, take aspirine, it is analgetic and decongestant, too.

The Bavarian

...and now you can see the frog jumping in the water and in doing so risking his live...

"that´s all folks" (B. Bunny)
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Score a little bottle of Swimmer's Ear or Aqua Ear at the pharmacy, lob a couple of drops in there and let the alcohol do it's thing. :friday then head off to the local natural store and get a couple of ear candles. Light 'em off and be prepared to be amazed at the crud that comes outta your ears.

Clear often and have fun.
...ear candles are harder to find.....

Hey Tadpole,
I had similar probs w/the ears after doing some freediving. The advice here is all good. The SwimEar is great stuff, and if you're consistent about using it each and every time you get outa the water, you'll be golden.
I've also heard rave reviews about the ear-candles: they make a ton of sense because the wetness factor causes major changes in the function of the skin that lines our ear canals. When that area remains wet, the skin cells get saturated w/water and become more permeable: the barrier function of the skin in your ears FAILS. As you know, sea water is not sterile, and if the skin is compromised, this creates an entry to bacteria. Bad, very bad...so this is a case where a few 'drops' of prevention are worth pounds of cure...do make sure you rinse your ears post dive w/clean soap and water, blot dry...and do the drops. About 2-3 in each ear, really getting 'em in there....

I'm having trouble finding ear candles: just tonight I scoped my fave Natural Food and Sundries store...and the clerk told me the FDA had a major prob. w/ the makers of ear candles. Someone may have misused them (! use your imagination !) and this resulted in the retailer avoiding liability issues...

So I'm looking for 'em! If I hear of a place here, I'll let you know....

Maybe someone else here knows of a good resource for them?
I'd like to know.....

Thanks all!
There's a lot of skepticism out there about ear candling. For what it's worth, here is Dr. Andrew Weil's comment on it (he promotes a lot of alternative therapies but doesn't endorse everything uncritically):

Weil on ear candling

Personally I use a combination of three things to treat my outer ears:

-- a 50/50 mix of 91% rubbing alcohol and vinegar

-- mineral oil

-- hydrogen peroxide

I use the alcohol-vinegar after dives to kill off bugs and release any water from the ears, but I always follow it with mineral oil. This keeps the ears from drying out.

When crud starts building up in my ears, I use 5 minutes of hydrogen peroxide per ear to melt it, followed by vinegar-alcohol to remove the water left by the hydrogen peroxide reaction, followed by mineral oil.

My equally non-professional input (not a health care person, just another diver with sometimes tricky ears) ...
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I always get crackling in the ears after diving, even after I dry my ears out with alcohol. It is caused by an accumulation of fluid in the inner ear, due to the repeated negative pressures in the inner ear. The fluid is reabsorbed by the body eventually, and there is nothing you can do to speed it up. However, getting this accumulation of fluid in the inner ear often means you are greedy in your equalizing, meaning you are letting your ears squeeze too much before equalizing. By equalizing extremely frequently & rapidly, this accumulation can be almost entirely prevented.

When I dive with a mask, I only plug my nose when I feel my ears are getting squeezed. This is a bad habit, but it causes the crackling for a long time after diving. When diving with fluid goggles & a nose clip, I don't have to plug my nose so I can equalize 50 times just to get to 30 feet, without wasting energy plugging my nose, and then I don't get crackling afterwards.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
Frank, Erik, Sven...thanks for the lead and information.
The Whole Foods Store was the location of the unsuccessful attempt. They cited 'possible liability problems' as the reason. Found another local source here, Jimbos'. Thanks.
Sven and others,

Swimmer's Ear or Aqua Ear are not available here in Sweden.

Will Dr Weils mixtures in Frank O'Donnell's thread do the trick.

My problems started about 4 years ago while freediving Anilao in the Philippies where the water is probably full of bacterias. I was cured with some antibiotic ear drops. The problem is that it comes back again very easily. My doctor here in sweden recomends nothing. He says that I should leave my ears and they will after a while build up their own resistance again. My ears are ok but if they get wet they get bad. This has kept me from freediving this summer despite our great weather and higher than usual water temperatures.

Surface swimming with earplugs is what I can manage.

How about the ear candles? I thought they where only for drying the ears? I found a place where I can buy them. Anyone know a place where I can read more on them.
Hello Robert,
So sorry you can't freedive at this time; the SwimEar solution we mention has alcohol and glycerin. Specifically, it contains isopropyl alcohol 95% with anhydrous glycerin 5%. The alcohol is a drying agent, it bonds with water and aids in evaporation. The glycerin component is soothing to the skin, probably lessens the impact of the alcohol, and acts as a skin moisturizer.

The ear candles aid in drying the ears and removing extra wax and debris. They are recommended for people like us who swim a lot...I haven't checked Google but I'm willing to bet a search-engine will locate more info for you. Doing lots of swimming this summer, they are now part of a once a month maintenance regimen. Hope this helps.
OceanSwimmer :)
Yep and thanks OceanSwimmer,

I found a lot of info on the net on earcandles and also found out that one of my friends has used them. They are available in a store only 150 m away from my place.

I will try them first and give my ears a last chance to recover without putting any chemicals in them. My only wish is that my ears will come back to what they where before my first earinfection 4 years back.

I guess I will give it a few weeks to a month more and then try to mix my own swimmers ear solution.
Hye Guys.

I just wanted you all to know, just in case you didn't, there's a good DAN(Diver's Alert Network) article, here on deeperblue, on how to make your own "swimmer's ear" product.

It can be found here,

or look under "bio" on any of the DAN's article and find "more on swimmer's ear".

I haven't made one yet but if you can't find products for sale at your country this may help.

Let me know if it does work.

It sounds like when you swallow you are popping your ears (equalizing). I can eqaulize my ears anytime without any hands on nose, etc. Its kind of a swallow type action. When I do this my ears alway crackle.

But my ears are also permanently full of junk. The last time I saw an ear specialist (10 years ago?) he used some dental like tools and pulled out an entire dixie cup full of wax. No joke.

I use the same mixtures Frank O suggest except I've never tried the olive oil. I just use peroxide less frequently an wipe off the excess to prevent burning. Also I noticed when cleaning them if I pop my ears (equalize) with my head tilted and the ear that I'm cleaning facing up, my ear will open up and the solution will go in my ear another level deeper. What a feeling!

I'll add that I have severe exotosis of the ears. This is bony growth in the ears assciated with exposure to temperate waters. The bony growth tries to seal off the ear to prevent anymore cold water from entering. The specialist 10 years ago pronounced one of my ears as 100% shut and the other 75 to 80% shut.

This is not common in diving because you wear a hood that covers the ears. I earned mine surfing. The closed ears actaully make it harder for my ears to drain properly. My ears can stay full of water for an hour or two. I'll carefully place a q-tip in my ear and just let it sit there untill the extra water is soaked up. That helps me a great deal.
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I might have this exotosis too. The ear specialists never diagnozed my ears with exotosis but my ear tubes are not round anymore. They sort of start to get a waist. It is a bony growth from two oposite sides that makes it harder to clean up the ears with a q-tip. You need to dry each side of the earwaist with the q-tip. This is probably the reason why my ears stay wet too long.

You said you get it from expoure to low temperature. Thats me.
In tropical water I never use a hood, I have done ice diving with a thin wetsuit hood, I go ice fishing when it is 20-30 below. Even if the air temperature is low I very seldom use a hat. I just don't seem to freeze too much. Can exotosis develop also from cold air?
Here in sweden ear candles are expensive and hard to find. The ones I found where more than 5 USD each. I found a cheaper one on the net. See http://www.earcandle.com/
They sell at 18 USD a dozen.

I am curious about if they really works. It sure seems like when I use them. I read in a special ear candle forum that they get this waxy buildup inside even if you burn them with one end in water instead of in your ear. Are they accepted by your medicine doctors? Have anyone read any scientific study on ear candles?
Hello rax

you wanted to have a medical opinion on ear candles. as a pharmacist i have the possibility to search in scientific databases. here is short abstract. i don´t comment it. read it!

Ear candles--efficacy and safety.

Seely DR, Quigley SM, Langman AW.

Spokane Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic, WA 99204, USA.

Ear candles are a popular and inexpensive alternative health treatment advocated for cerumen removal. A hollow candle is burned with one end in the ear canal with the intent of creating negative pressure and drawing cerumen from the ear. If effective, significant savings could result from the use of ear candles. This study evaluates the efficacy and safety of this alternative method for cerumen management. Tympanometric measurements in an ear canal model demonstrated that ear candles do not produce negative pressure. A limited clinical trial (eight ears) showed no removal of cerumen from the external auditory canal. Candle wax was actually deposited in some. A survey of 122 otolaryngologists identified 21 ear injuries resulting from ear candle use. Ear candles have no benefit in the management of cerumen and may result in serious injury.

The Bavarian

...and now you can see the frog jumping in the water and in doing so risking his live...

"that´s all folks" (B. Bunny)
Hi Cristoph and welcome to DB.

I'm a user of ear candles as outlined above but I do so with the understanding that they are not a one-step fixall for ear wax builup. I use them in a regimen that includes a lot of early and often clearing while descending, drying and lubing the ears afterwards and an occasional cleaning with a Q-tip. I have found that the candles have removed that last little bit of crap probably not so much from the esablishment of any negative pressure, which would be difficult at best if you could establish a seal, but the melting wax often follows a hot soak in the tub and seems to draw out that final little critter(s).

While I agree that there are very many forms of quackery out there, ear candles in a closely followed diet of care seems to work for me.
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