Danielle's Dives Blog

I have been reading some rather interesting articles lately about dehydration and the effects on a diver.  With lobster season almost upon us and the Florida shore dive season in full swing, I thought we should visit the topic of dehydration and diving.  I was noticing after long shore dive days, I was parched and would occasionally get headaches.  After a few years, doing multiple shore dives in a day, I now hydrate fully the day before slowly, loading up on H2O and making sure I have my vitamins in me.  For those of you who have never shore dove before, it is fabulous and having steel tanks gives me the opportunity to get 2-2 1/2 hour dives enjoying everything I come across.  Well, times this by 2 or 3 and you are talking a serious workout during the day!

Also a scuba diver can lose fluids through sweat or…

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Divers Have to Equalize Their Ears

 

Probably the hardest thing for most new divers to get used to when they first start going underwater is clearing their ears.

What Parts of a Diver’s Ear Are Effected by Pressure?:

To understand how ear equalization works, divers must first learn some basic ear anatomy.

The Outer Ear is open to the environment and is filled with air (or water) from the surroundings. The outer ear experiences the same pressure as the outside environment.

The Middle Ear is not open to the environment. In fact, the middle ear is almost completely air-tight. The only way air can move in and out of the middle ear is through a thin tube called the Eustachian tube.

The Eustachian Tube connects your ears to your nose and throat. When the Eustachian tube is open, air can flow from your nose and throat into your ears. However, the Eustachian tube is normally closed, trapping air in the middle ear.

The Eardrum is a thin tissue that separates the outer ear and the middle ear

Why Do Divers Have to Equalize Their Ears?

Water pressure increases the deeper a diver goes. Since the outer ear is affected by the pressure of the surrounding environment, the pressure in the outer ear increases as a diver descends. However, the middle ear is sealed so the pressure in the middle ear does not change. If a diver descends without equalizing his ears, the increased pressure in the outer ear relative to the middle ear flexes the eardrum inwards. The discomfort felt as the eardrum bends inwards is called a squeeze.

A Diver must equalize the air pressure in his middle ear with the pressure in his outer ear or he risks a ear barotrauma or even rupturing his ear drum.

How Do Divers Equalize Their Ears?

To equalize the air pressure in his middle ear during descent, a diver must manually open his Eustachian tube to allow high pressure air to fill the middle ear. This is easier than it sounds. Divers can equalize their ears using any of the following techniques.

This is the method most divers learn. Pinch your nose and gently blow through your nose. The resulting overpressure in your throat usually forces air up your Eustachian tubes.

  • TOYNBEE MANEUVER:

With your nose pinched, swallow. Swallowing pulls open your Eustachian tubes while the movement of your tongue, with your nose closed, compresses air against them.

  • LOWREY TECHNIQUE:

A combination of Valsalva and Toynbee. While closing your nose, blow and swallow at the same time.

How Often Should Divers Equalize Their Ears on Descent?

The answer varies from diver to diver. The general rule is that a diver should equalize his ears before he feels pain or discomfort. Most divers equalize their ears every few meters while descending. Keep in mind if a divers ascends a little bit, he will have to re-equalize his ears as he descends again. A diver cannot over-equalize his ears, so when in doubt, equalize!

Do Divers Have to Equalize Their Ears on Ascent?

Usually, divers do not have to manually equalize their ears as they ascend. As the water pressure decreases on ascent, the pressure in the middle ear becomes greater than the pressure in the outer ear. The extra air pressure usually leaks out the Eustachian tube automatically.

If a diver’s ears do not equalize automatically as he is ascending, he may experience discomfort in his ears as the eardrum bends outwards. A diver experiencing a reverse block may feel discomfort sometimes accompanied by a feeling of dizziness..

Reverse blocks are common when the Eustachian tube is inflamed, or when a diver is congested. Keep in mind that a reverse block is caused by too much air pressure in the middle ear, so attempting a Valsalva Maneuver (or similar equalization technique for descents) will only make the problem worse because it adds more air pressure to the already over-full middle ear.

What Should a Diver Do If He Has Equalization Problems?

If a diver has equalization problems, either on ascent or descent, he should immediately establish neutral buoyancy so that he does not descend or ascend inadvertently. Any further depth change could exacerbate the problem. The diver should signal to his buddy that he has a problem with his ears, and attempt one of the following techniques. Remember never to equalize forcefully.

• For Equalization Problems on Descent

  •   Take a few seconds to relax and focus on your breathing.
  •   Gently try a different equalization technique, such as swallowing
  •   Look up to stretch open your Eustachian tubes and gently try to equalize.
  •   Ascend a few feet and try to equalize again.
  •   If nothing works, slowly ascend to the surface, relax for a few minutes, blow your nose and clear your throat, and then try again.

• For Equalization Problems on Ascent

  •   Open your Eustachian tubes by swallowing or wiggling your jaw.
  •   Try the Toynbee Maneuver pinch your nose closed and swallow.
  •   Descend a few feet and wait for the pressure to equalize on its own.

Some Conditions make it Difficult to Equalize:

Congestion

If congestion obstructs your Eustachian tubes, you might have more trouble equalizing your ears. Thus, if you have a cold, you might find it impossible to equalize your ears. Don’t allow cold medicine or an hour of reduced congestion to lull you into false security. Even if you experience easy equalization on the descent, your congestion might return during the dive. You could then experience the “reverse squeeze,” in which you have trouble clearing your ears as you return to the surface.

Eardrum pain

Eardrum pain, can occur if you jump into the water from a boat or dock and slap your ear against the surface of the water as you enter. If you make overly violent attempts to clear your ears to compensate for pressure changes, you can also cause eardrum pain. Don’t try to force your ears to clear. If, after gentle attempts to clear your ears, your ears remain blocked, consider aborting the dive and returning to the surface.

 

Barotrauma

Air spaces in the sinuses and ear can expand if the ears do not properly equalize, causing an injury known as barotrauma. Mild symptoms of barotrauma include pain and pressure in the ear. More severe symptoms include ringing, hearing loss, nausea and dizziness. If you experience more severe symptoms of barotrauma, do not continue to dive. Consult a physician.

Age:

Children have small, flat Eustachian tubes that gradually open as they mature. Kids may find it difficult or impossible to equalize until their Eustachian tubes open fully

Uncontrolled nasal allergies:

Any allergy that causes congestion can make equalization difficult.

If you are having problems, try these tips to help you descend safely:

Start on the Surface

Before you even go under the water, start your equalization method. If you are using the Valsalva maneuver, gently blow through your nose while you are waiting to start your descent. This “pre-pressurizes” the ear and makes equalization easier upon descent.

Descend Feet First

If you are descend with your head first, it affects the Eustachian tube and makes it harder to equalize your ears.

Equalize Early and Often

Begin equalizing as soon as your head goes underwater and continue equalizing every few meters. This is probably the most important step to descending without ear problems. If you are having problems clearing one ear, tilt your head – with the blocked ear toward the surface.

Ascend if Not Clearing

If your ears are not clearing properly, ascend a few feet to reduce the pressure. Try clearing them again. If it still doesn’t work, ascend a few more feet and try again. Rinse and repeat until you have cleared your ears successfully.

Do Not Force It

If you have tried ascending and it is not working, abort the dive.

It’s better to forego a dive than have ear problems for the rest of your life.

This is probably the most important ear scuba diving tip to remember.

 

How To Buy a Scuba Mask That Fits

 

Scuba diving and snorkeling open the underwater world to first-hand exploration by anyone who can swim and has the desire to see fish and other underwater denizens in their natural habitat. Seeing clearly requires the use of a dive mask. Buying the proper dive mask is the first step into underwater experiences.

Your scuba mask provides your view to the vast underwater world of the ocean. All scuba diving masks are not created equal. They are designed to fit different face shapes and sizes, so it is essential to try on masks before purchase. Scuba masks come in an endless choice of style and colour, but there are many things to consider when purchasing your first, or tenth, scuba mask, including: field of vision, a high-grade silicone skirt for a lasting and comfortable seal, comfortable nose pocket and a high-grade, flexible silicone strap and strap fasteners.

Buying a high quality scuba mask and its proper care will ensure the longevity of the mask. When choosing a mask, three sets of criteria are critically important: fit, fit and fit. As no two faces are alike, proper mask fitting needs to be a careful undertaking. A poorly fitting mask will flood and raise stress in your diving experience.

Bring your regulator and snorkel on your shopping trip because these can affect the mask’s seal. Once you’ve made your selections, check the fit of a mask you’re thinking about purchasing Most important, don’t fall for the old method of inhaling to see if a mask fits. Creating such a vacuum can provide a seal on even an improperly fitting mask. Instead, with your regulator and snorkel in place, tilt your head back and rest the mask in place without inhaling. Look for any gaps between the skirt and the skin. Next, make sure the mask is comfortable, there’s nothing worse than diving with a mask that digs into the bridge of your nose, eyebrows or upper lip. At depth, these pressure points can make you feel like you’re wearing a coffee can. Make sure you can reach around the second stage to pinch your nose. Last, if your retailer will let you take it into the pool, take the plunge and make sure the mask doesn’t leak and that there are no issues with comfort. If you can’t do an in-water test, check the store’s return policy.

Because the field of view you get through a new mask in your dive store is not what you’re going to get viewing through it underwater it’s important to keep that in mind when trying on masks in the store.

A mask with side windows has two additional characteristics. On the surface, when gazing from the front windows to the side windows, you see an uninterrupted, panoramic view of your buddy, the dive boat and the dive site. But underwater, shifting your gaze from front to side can be like stepping into a house of mirrors. At the point where the side windows and front lenses meet, you’ll hit a blind spot. Side windows do, however, provide a huge amount of extra peripheral vision, bringing a lot more of the dive site into view. Some divers learn to compensate for the refraction factor because the extra view off to the side is worth dealing with the distortion; others find the effect more distracting and choose not to buy a mask with side windows. It’s a personal preference for each diver, but worth understanding the refraction factor before buying a mask to decide what is best for you.

There are many scuba masks available. Take the time to choose the right scuba mask for you. Your eyes will appreciate it and you will enjoy the beauty of scuba diving that much more.

Dive Slowly

Scuba diving in Elba island, Italy

Scuba diving in Elba island, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You will not be able to see everything the ocean has to offer in one dive, so why rush?

Why shouldn’t scuba divers race across the reef at top speed?

Won’t swimming quickly allow divers to cover more ground and see more?

Divers who speed through the water breathe more heavily than slow-moving divers because they exert themselves more. An increased air consumption rate leads to a shorter dive time. The amount of aquatic life a diver sees is proportional to the amount of time he stays underwater not the distance he covers. In fact, divers who swim quickly tend to pass over interesting smaller creatures.

Constant kicking frequently masks major problems, such as poor buoyancy control or improper weighting. A diver who won’t stop kicking frequently can’t stop kicking because he is using his fins to adjust his buoyancy. For example, a diver who is sinking may drop his legs and kick himself upwards to maintain a consistent depth instead of adding air to his BC.  Many divers have to force themselves to slow down and occasionally stop all movement before they learn to fine-tune their buoyancy control.

Swimming rapidly may also make diving unsafe on a physiological level.  A diver who swims hard enough to raise his breathing rate is doing the scuba equivalent of running a marathon underwater. Furthermore, breathing resistance increases underwater in proportion to depth. A diver who increases his breathing rate may not be able to exhale all of the used air from his lungs. This leads to an increase in carbon dioxide, which can cause a diver to feel starved for air, become dizzy or even fall unconscious!

All divers, novice and experienced, should avoiding racing through the water.

Swimming too quickly when scuba diving shortens dives, causes divers to overlook interesting aquatic life, masks serious buoyancy problems, distracts them, and leads to physiological issues.

Slow down and take it easy underwater — diving should be relaxing and enjoyable, not exhausting!