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Release the Pressure

​Ear and sinus barotrauma can be caused by changes in ambient pressure. During descent, when pressure increases, divers must equalise air spaces in the sinuses (through the sinus ostium connecting the nose and the sinuses) and middle ears (through the Eustachian tubes) to the surrounding water pressure. Swollen, damaged tissues could restrict the passage of air through the opening that allows equalisation. When pressure in air spaces cannot equalise, the diver may experience pain and discomfort.

During ascent, if the expanding air space cannot be vented (reverse block), the volume of gas in the cavity increases, resulting in more pain and discomfort.

If the stress on the middle ear becomes too great (from not equalising or trying too hard using the Valsalva technique) it can cause damage to the inner ear (hearing and balance structure), which can then lead to permanent damage. Outer ear barotraumas occur when the ear canal becomes blocked, trapping air between the blockage and the ear drum. This can create excess pressure or a vacuum in the air space as the diver changes depths. Blockages can be caused by excess wax, non-vented ear plugs or an extremely tight fitting hood.

When diving frequently, divers can also experience an outer ear infection (otitis externa). This is caused by bacteria in the external ear canal causing inflammation. A special diving mask (Pro Ear) or special ear drops (also available from the online DAN-SA store) can be used as prevention tools to reduce the risk of otitis externa.