Ear Pain, Scuba Diving
Diving Ear Pain Symptoms
Pressure against the eardrum is responsible for the symptoms of ear squeeze. At low pressure, the diver has a feeling of fullness. As the pressure increases, the eardrum bulges inward, swells, and becomes painful.
Continued high pressure can rupture the eardrum. If this occurs, air bubbles may be felt coming from the ear and the pain may lessen. Cold water then enters the middle ear through the hole in the eardrum, and the diver may become nauseated or vomit. The diver may also become disoriented or have a feeling of spinning, referred to as vertigo.
Upon returning to the surface, if the ear drum has ruptured, the diver may feel fluid draining out of the ear or notice hearing loss. Rarely, a one-sided facial paralysis resulting from too much pressure on a nerve in the inner ear may be associated with ear squeeze.
When to Seek Medical Care
The majority of cases of ear pain or ear squeeze force the diver to abort the dive before the eardrum ruptures. In these cases, symptoms often resolve shortly after the diver reaches the surface. If symptoms continue or the cause of the ear pain is not known, seek medical care. Disorientation, vomiting, and hearing loss are symptoms of a ruptured eardrum and require medical care.
If a ruptured eardrum is present or suspected, the diver should be evaluated in a hospital's emergency department. No further dives should be undertaken until the diver is medically cleared.
Exams and Tests
Diving Ear Pain Treatment - Self-Care at Home
The treatment of ear squeeze begins during the dive. If fullness or pain is experienced, do not continue to dive deeper. If ear clearing techniques fail, the dive must be ended. Always complete the decompression stops if necessary when returning to the surface.
If the eardrum ruptures, the diver may become disoriented or vomit, which may lead to panic. Panic may lead to ascending too rapidly. The dive partner should carefully observe and assist, if needed, during the ascent, making sure all decompression stops are made. On the surface, no objects or eardrops should be placed into the ear. Keep the ear dry.