Learn more about equalizing
In scuba diving the term “equalizing” means to equalize pressure between the inside of your ears and the underwater environment. Human ears have the natural ability to compensate external pressure from the surrounding world and this mostly happens without you even noticing that it happens. However, underwater is not the kind of environment to which human body is well-adapted, meaning the ears will struggle to maintain balanced pressure the deeper you go. That is why it is important to help them and learn how to equalize.
Water pressure keeps on increasing as you go deeper and the only way to compensate it is by pushing the Eustachian tube in your ear outward. This tube is a tunnel than runs from the middle ear space to the back of the nose. It also connects the middle ear to the throat.
Middle ear is an air-filled space formed by the bone and capped with a vibrating membrane called the eardrum. In normal conditions, or when the pressure is within normal level, the Eustachian tube is collapsed. It only opens when you need to equalize pressure. The frequent popping sound inside the ear is actually a good indication that Eustachian tube opens letting more air to come in and balance out the external pressure. During a dive the pressure from the water is higher than under normal circumstances, so opening the tube requires more effort.
As we know from our rich experience with diving in Padangbai, the most common consequence from failure to equalize pressure is pain in the ear. It happens when the eardrum is painfully pushed inward due to considerable pressure difference between the middle ear and external environment. In some situations, such as scuba diving, the Eustachian tube can fail to perform properly unless you provide voluntary assistance by swallowing, yawning, or gently push the air through the tubes. If you descend too quickly underwater, the pressure can also change rapidly or faster than the Eustachian tube can adjust to. The pain in the ear in this circumstance is called “an ear squeeze”.
One of the easiest ways for the divers to equalize their ears is to simply to swallow. Even underwater with the regulator in your mouth, it is not a difficult task and many divers prefer his method over the others. Another easy method is to pinch the nose and blow air gently, with emphasis on gently!
At our dive resort in Padangbai we always remind our students & divers to equalize often and gently when descending for the dive or when changing the depth during the dive to prevent discomfort or worse - ear injuries. If you feel you can’t equalize or feel pain, stop the descent and try again. If none of the above techniques help, it is always safer to abort the dive.