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Ear Pain, Scuba Diving (cont.)

Diving Ear Pain - Causes

Ear pain occurs during the descent portion of a dive as the diver drops deeper underwater. As the diver descends in the water, water pressure increases on the external surface of the ear drum (tympanic membrane). To counterbalance this pressure, the air pressure must reach the inner surface of the ear drum. To do this, the Eustachian tube will open and allow the pressure behind the eardrum to equalize with the outside pressure of the seawater in the ear canal. If the Eustachian tube can't open, however, then as the seawater pressure in the ear canal increases, the eardrum is forced inward, inflaming the eardrum and causing pain. If the pain is ignored and the diver drops deeper, the pressure will continue to increase and the eardrum may burst (rupture). Cold seawater will then rush into the middle ear causing nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

There are many reasons that the Eustachian tubes may not open to equalize the pressure.

  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Over-aggressive ear clearing
Picture of the Anatomy of the Ear
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/6/2016

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Dysbarism »

Although dysbarism includes problems associated with high altitude and aerospace endeavors, dysbarism also relates to the increasing pressures of descending under water that are usually experienced in free or assisted dives.

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