10 ways to free dive without hurting your ears (how to equalize effectively)

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10 ways to free dive without hurting your ears (how to equalize effectively)

Wondering how you can free dive without your ears hurting? Me too! 

Ah, the inevitable ear pop that you try to get away from but somehow can’t seem to shake. Especially when freediving, the ear pop is just one of those things that can end up hurting your ears.

To put it simply, the main way that divers stop their ears from hurting is by learning how to equalize them in line with the equivalent pressure at their diving depth. Let’s take a look at the reasons behind this pain, and how you can do it yourself without having to be a pro!

how to free dive without hurting your ears

So, why do your ears hurt when you free dive?

The main reason is the difference in pressure levels between your eardrum and the ambient water pressure. As you descend towards depth, this difference becomes greater and greater. How do we avoid it? What can we do to make sure that our ear doesn’t explode as we free dive?

Here’s what you should know!


10 ways to equalize your ears while freediving

1. Start equalizing before you actually get into the water

Equalizing before getting into the water allows you to exhale out all the excess air in your lungs. This is an important step because it allows you to naturally equalize as you descend instead of trying to hold your breath and reach depth, which can have detrimental effects on your dives.

As soon as you descend into the water, start exhaling really slowly, like one second for each exhale (holding your regulator or breathing hose in between). You want to make sure that any excess air leaves your body before it has time to expand inside your ears.

2. Wait for the telltale popping sound

Once you’ve heard the popping sound, stop exhaling and you’re good to go. Sounds too easy, right? Well, it is!

3. Learn to equalize with your mask

Equalizing with your mask allows you to do it while swimming and keeps your mask from filling up with water. How do we equalize our ears when wearing a mask? Place the top of your tongue behind the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth and push upwards gently until you feel/hear a pop in each ear. Your ears should now be equalized.

4. Try the Frenzel technique

The Frenzel technique is a method of equalizing your ears without having to use any, uh, “manual intervention.” How good of a freediver are you? This technique will only work if you’re a mid-level or advanced freediver. The technique is named after who created the technique and it requires some awkward mouthing of words.

Once you’ve mastered saying it then simply perform a Valsalva maneuver as described above with one exception: Since you already have air in your lungs from saying Frenzel correctly, exhale through tightly pursed lips instead of through breathing hoses/regulators. The Frenzel technique is safe to use because it’s the same as Valsalva, just with your mouth.

5. Ensure you’ve equalized both ears, not just one

How do you know that you’ve done both ears? You’ll hear the pop and feel the pressure equalize. If you feel any pressure or hear a popping sound then you haven’t done both ears equally so try again.

6. Don’t leave it too late 

If you leave it too late to equalize then the pressure will be too high for the trapped air in your ear to withstand. How do you know if it’s too late?

Your ears start to hurt, you feel pain or discomfort while diving, or your ears pop but then pop again when descending even more. When this happens you must ascend a few feet/meters and try equalizing again until it works!

7. Give the Valsalva maneuver a go 

You’ll love this one! The Valsalva or Valsalva maneuver is a techniquewhere you push out on your nose and swallow at the same time (like when you’re trying to narrow the back of the throat by sticking the tip of your tongue into that really annoying groove in-between your teeth).

As you push out on your nose and swallow, muscles around this part of your ears contract which pulls open the previously tight eardrum and allows extra air to rush in and equalize pressure.

8. Don’t smoke or drink prior to going diving 

Having a drink of alcohol or a cigarette before and after diving can cause the blood vessels in your throat to expand, making it uncomfortable or impossible to clear your ears. How do you know if this is affecting you? You have a headache after diving, are clearing constantly during descent and every so often at depth.

Being dehydrated can also make your mucosal tissues swell which will hinder equalizing too! Your ears will feel full of water before descending, don’t pop as much as they usually do on ascent or more than usual.

Also never dive under the effects of drugs, including alcohol too. It makes equalizing almost impossible unless you’re able to hold your breath for an extremely long time.

9. Use a mooring line as a method of descent 

A mooring line will allow you to descend at a near-constant speed which means you don’t have to keep equalizing so often.

When descending, pull yourself down the line using your arms and be sure to relax your face, jaw and throat!

When it comes to actually clearing your ears, it makes it much easier because most of the time when you’re not pushing out or swallowing it will automatically try to open up your Eustachian tubes with little contractions in these muscles.

Ensure your weight is distributed evenly between both harness carabiners too. If one side has more weight on it then it’ll tug downwards making descent faster than the ascent.

10. Try not to force the ‘pop’ and don’t squeeze too hard 

If you squeeze too hard when trying to equalize then you risk pushing air out of your middle ear and up your Eustachian tubes, which will have nowhere to go so the pressure will build up.

Don’t squeeze too hard when trying to pull open your eardrum. If you feel a lot of pain during descent then stop immediately because the mucosal tissues in that area are damaged and need time to heal!


In Conclusion

Conclusion paragraph: If your ears are continually hurting when diving then speak to a medical professional.
They will be able to tell you why this is happening and offer some solutions that can help, such as wearing earplugs or using nose clips.

There are many divers who have found ways of free diving without their ears being affected by water pressure, so follow the tips in this guide and don’t let fear stop you from enjoying the underwater world! If you liked this guide then you’ll also enjoy: