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Ear Pain, Scuba Diving

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.

Medical Treatment

The most important treatment was done by aborting the dive and ascending to the surface, making any necessary decompression stops.

  • Initial treatment involves the use of oral decongestants and nasal spray to help open the eustachian tube. Antihistamines may also be prescribed if an allergy is a contributing factor.
  • Pain medications are helpful, and eardrops to relieve pain may be used if the eardrum is not ruptured.
  • A ruptured eardrum will require antibiotics by mouth to prevent infections.
  • Hearing exams or audiograms may be needed if the eardrum is ruptured or hearing loss is present.
  • If the person has a facial paralysis, oral steroids may be prescribed.

Next Steps - Follow-up

  • Avoid eardrops unless prescribed by a doctor. Put nothing into the ear.
  • The person may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) to monitor the eardrum healing.
  • No further diving should be undertaken until 2 weeks after all symptoms are resolved and the eardrum is healed.

Prevention

Prevention is the preferred treatment for ear pain involved with scuba diving.

  • Divers who are unable to clear their ears or experience pain should stop their descent and abort the dive.
    • Divers clear their ears by several methods. The most common is the valsalva maneuver. This involves plugging the nose, closing the mouth, and blowing. The procedure increases the pressure in the mouth and throat, pushing air into the eustachian tube to open it up.
  • Divers should equalize their ears frequently when descending.
  • Diving should not be attempted if any sinus or upper respiratory symptoms are present.

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