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Tips for equalizing

Updated: Jun 12, 2022

There is nothing more frustrating than struggling to equalize on a dive. After all the anticipation and excitement of getting ready, only to have your ears and sinuses throw a tantrum, will ruin any diver’s day. However, much like arguing with a toddler throwing a tantrum, you’ll soon learn that you won’t win that shouting match, at least not without injury.

Normally we all learn to equalize by pinching our noses, closing our mouths, and blowing gently. That sense of relief that comes from our inner ear muscles accommodating the change in air pressure is oh so sweet. But sometimes, that doesn’t quite cut it.

Here are six of my tried and tested tips to help you equalize so you can begin what might be the dive of a lifetime.

1. First and foremost, don’t rush it. It’s taken me as long as 20 minutes on some occasions to descend because of my ears. Some folks are quick to call it quits after just a few attempts to equalize. Your ears and sinuses might need a little time to acclimatize to the pressure around you. Take it slow and definitely don’t try and push past the pain. It will only make it harder on your ears and you run the risk of damaging your eardrums badly if you really over do it.

2. Equalize frequently. The recommendation is typically to equalize once per metre or so but some ears might need more attention than others. As soon as you start to feel that squeeze, try equalizing. If that squeeze isn’t budging, try and move up by a foot/30cms, before trying again. Keep moving up (slowly) until it does finally clear and then try descending again.

3. When you pinch your nose, try swallowing gently before blowing out as you normally would. This often helps me stretch the muscles surrounding the ear canal and will let the air pass through more easily.

4. Wiggle your jaw. This is often recommended on numerous blogs and websites but what’s often not mentioned is that you also need to sync that with moving the back arch of your tongue forward too. I tend to this and sync it with a big inhale as well for maximum effect.

5. Remember, the first 15ft/5m are the hardest on your ears. Past that depth, your inner ear muscles are better able to normalize much more easily on its own as you go deeper. I’ve found that with some students, equalizing struggles can sometimes cause a psychological barrier for future dives. Don’t be too hard on your self!

6. Finally, if your ears are not playing ball, don’t be too hard on yourself! Sometimes our ears just are not feeling it and the last thing you want to do is hurt yourself. Some dives aren’t meant to be so you’re better off ending the dive and relaxing your ears for the next one. If you’re really concerned, you can always meet with your doctor for a check-up to make sure everything is working properly.

How about our readers? Do you folks have any tips for equalizing that we haven’t listed above? Share in the comments below!


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