Dive Health: How to Equalize Ear Pressure

According to a survey undertaken by the team at DIVEIN, almost 90 per cent of divers do not equalize the right way. Twenty-nine per cent of divers have had to stay out of the water for weeks or months due to ear problems caused by poor equalizing. Let us look at some different ways to equalize ear pressure, so you can enjoy safe, fun dives!

Is the Valsalva Maneuver the best way to equalize ear pressure?

Although most of us were taught the best way to equalize is to pinch your nostrils and blow through your nose (the Valsalva Maneuver), it might not be the best way to equalize ear pressure.

Yes – this method works well, but only if you keep your tubes open before the pressure changes. If you do not equalize early or often enough, that pressure difference can push soft tissues together, which close the ends of tubes. When you then push air over those tissues it just locks the tubes shut.

Thankfully there are some other great ways to equalize your ears. As with any new skill, it is a good idea to practice a few times and see which works best for you.

5 alternative ways to equalize ear pressure:

1.Toynbee Maneuver.

In Brief: Pinch your nose and swallow

With your nostrils pinched or blocked against your mask skirt, swallow. This pulls open your Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat and compresses air against them.

2. Lowry Technique.

In Brief: Pinch your nose, blow and swallow

This combination of Valsalva and Toynbee works well. Whilst your nostrils are closed, blow into your nose and swallow at the same time.

3. Edmonds Technique.

In Brief: Pinch your nose, blow and push your jaw forwards

Tense the soft tissue at the back of the roof of your mouth (the soft palate) and throat muscles. Then push the jaw forwards and down and do a Valsalva maneuver.

4. Frenzel Maneuver.

In Brief: Pinch your nose and make the sound of the letter ‘K’

Close your nose and the back of your throat. Then make the sound of the letter ‘K’. This forces the back of your tongue up, pushing air against your Eustachian tubes.

5. Voluntary Tubal Opening.

In Brief: Tense your throat and push your jaw forward

Tense the soft palate and throat whilst pushing your jaw forwards and down – as if you are starting to yawn. This makes the Eustachian tubes open.

Voluntary Tubal Opening requires practice, but you can learn to control those muscles in time and hold your Eustachian tubes open for continuous equalization.

Whichever method you choose to equalize ear pressure, remember to equalize often during your descent to fully protect your ears.


Top 11 Tips for Easy Equalizing.

1. Listen for a ‘pop’ sound.

Before you even start diving, make sure you can hear a pop or click in both ears when you swallow. This ensures both Eustachian tubes are open.

2. Start equalizing before you dive.

Start equalizing your ears every few minutes, from a few hours before you dive. This is a great way to reduce the chances of a block during the early stages of your descent.

3. Equalize at the surface.

This is a great way to help you get through the first meter or so of your descent when you are busy dumping air and organizing yourself. Make sure you equalize gently and see if this works for you.

4. Descend feet first.

Air rises in your Eustachian tubes and fluid drains downwards. Being in a head-up position makes it a lot easier to equalize ear pressure and with less force needed

5. Look up!

This opens your Eustachian tubes and helps you equalize.


6. Use a descent line.

This is a great way to control your descent so you can focus on a slow descent with continuous equalization.

7. Avoid alcohol and tobacco.

Both irritate mucus membranes, causing more mucus production, which can block your Eustachian tubes.

8. Keep your mask clear.

Water in your mask and up your nose can also irritate mucus membranes, which then block Eustachian tubes.

The best way to keep your mask free of water is to ensure it fits properly. This guide to the best scuba diving masks will help you choose a mask that fits your face well.

9. Equalize often.

This is key to preventing problems, so stay ahead of the game and equalize often.

10. If it hurts, stop!

Do not try pushing through pain. If your ears begin to hurt, ascend a few feet and try equalizing again. No dive is worth it if the result is barotrauma.

11. Continue your education.

Completing an advanced dive course is a great way to enhance your dive knowledge and stay safe in the water.

With SSI’s range of advanced dive courses, you can:

If you want to become a better, safer diver, check out our advanced diver courses and enroll online today.