Ear Squeeze

Reviewed on 10/6/2021

What Causes Ear Squeeze?

  • Ear squeeze is the adverse effects of pressure changes on the ear that can occur with scuba diving or with altitude changes that create differences in pressure between the internal ear spaces and the external ear canal.
  • Scuba diving and altitude changes can affect the external ear, middle ear, and inner ear.
  • Ear problems are commonly caused by
    • inadequate equalization,
    • forceful equalization,
    • diving ir flying with a cold or allergies,
    • wax buildup,
    • a tight hood, or
    • a mask used in diving over the ear.
  • If symptoms of ear squeeze begin at depth, they can be very dangerous for the diver.
  • Descent of plane during landing.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of an Ear Squeeze?

Symptoms of ear squeeze include the following:

What Is the Treatment for an Ear Squeeze?

  • Rest; avoid further dives or flights, coughing, sneezing, bending, and attempts to equalize pressure in the ears.
  • For air travel, preflight decongestants and swallowing, yawning, or chewing may relieve pressure
  • Pain may be relieved with 1-2 acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 4 hours and/or 1-2 ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) every 6-8 hours.
  • Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) 30 mg tablets, 1 every 6 hours for 2-3 days, may relieve congestion. People with a history of high blood pressure or heart rhythm problems should avoid this product.
  • Oral antibiotics are usually recommended for discharge from the ear, nose, or mouth. Tell the doctor of any drug allergy prior to starting any antibiotic. Some antibiotics can cause sensitivity to the sun, so use sunscreen.

When to Seek Medical Care for Ear Squeeze

  • Seek medical treatment as soon as possible if symptoms of ear squeeze are present.
  • Consult a doctor about treatment with available medications.
Reviewed on 10/6/2021
Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care


MedscapeReference. "Barotrauma in Emergency Medicine."