Dive Into Equalization: The Most Common Methods

When a diver descends in the water, the pressure around them increases due to the weight of the water above them. If the diver’s ears and sinuses are not equalized properly, this increased pressure can cause pain, discomfort, and even injury. Equalization is a crucial aspect of diving, whether it be freediving or scuba diving. The process of equalization is necessary to equalize the pressure in the diver’s ears and sinuses with the water pressure around them. This helps prevent injuries, such as barotrauma, which can occur if the pressure is not equalized. In this article, we will discuss the different equalization techniques used in freediving and scuba diving.

Scuba Diving Techniques

There are several equalization techniques used in scuba diving:

  1. Valsalva Maneuver: This is the most common and simplest equalization technique used in scuba diving. It involves holding your nose and blowing gently, which helps equalize the pressure in your ears. To perform the Valsalva maneuver, pinch your nostrils shut with your fingers and gently blow air out through your nose. This causes a small amount of pressure to build up in your nasal passages, which can help equalize the pressure in your ears. The Valsalva maneuver should be done before you feel any discomfort or pain in your ears.
  2. Frenzel Maneuver: This technique involves using the tongue to compress the air in the mouth and move it towards the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. To perform the Frenzel maneuver, close your mouth and press the back of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Then, with your nostrils pinched shut, try to push air toward your Eustachian tube. This technique requires more practice and skill than the Valsalva maneuver, but it is more effective at equalizing the pressure in your ears at greater depths.

Freediving Techniques

In freediving, the most commonly used equalization techniques are:

  1. Frenzel Maneuver: Similar to the scuba diving technique, the Frenzel maneuver involves compressing the air in the mouth to equalize the pressure in the ears. The difference is that in freediving, the technique is done without holding the nose. Instead, the diver uses their tongue to compress the air in their mouth and push it towards the Eustachian tube.
  2. Lowry Technique: This technique involves taking a deep breath and then closing your glottis (the part of your throat that controls airflow) while trying to push air into your Eustachian tube. To perform the Lowry technique, take a deep breath, close your glottis, and try to push air towards your Eustachian tube by contracting the muscles in your throat. This technique is more advanced than the Frenzel maneuver and requires practice to master.

Other Techniques

There are two other equalization techniques that can be used in both freediving and scuba diving:

  1. Toynbee Maneuver: This technique involves swallowing while holding your nose closed. This helps equalize the pressure in the ears and sinuses. To perform the Toynbee maneuver, pinch your nostrils shut and swallow your saliva. This technique is less forceful than the Valsalva maneuver and can be done more frequently.
  2. Mouthfill: This technique involves filling your mouth with air and using your tongue to push the air toward the back of your throat, where the Eustachian tube is located. To perform the mouthful technique, take a breath and hold it in your mouth. Then, close your lips and use your tongue to push the air toward the back of your throat. It is very important to be aware of your depth and if you are scuba diving you should never ascend while holding your breath as this can cause severe injuries to your lungs.

One way to prevent injury to the sinuses during descent is to perform controlled and gradual descents, which allow the diver to equalize the pressure in their ears and sinuses as they descend. This can be done by descending slowly and pausing frequently to perform equalization techniques discussed above. By doing so, the diver can ensure that their ears and sinuses are always equalized and that the pressure inside them matches the increasing pressure in the water around them.

On the other hand, if a diver descends too quickly, the pressure around them will increase rapidly, making it more difficult to equalize the pressure in their ears and sinuses. This can lead to barotrauma, a condition where the pressure differential between the inside and outside of the sinuses causes injury, such as a ruptured eardrum or sinus cavity. In severe cases, this can result in permanent damage or even death.

In conclusion, equalization is a critical aspect of diving, and a controlled descent is crucial in preventing injuries to the sinuses during diving. By practicing different equalization techniques and equalizing frequently, divers can prevent barotrauma and other related injuries. If you’re looking to improve your diving skills and safety, consider taking the GUE Fundamentals course in Toronto, which focuses on controlled descent and increases the diver’s safety and capacity. Remember to always prioritize safety when diving and never hesitate to seek guidance from a professional. If you have a cold or sinus congestion, it’s best to postpone your dive until you have fully recovered to reduce the risk of complications and injuries related to diving.

Alain EID

GUE Instructor

Alain began his diving journey in 2010 and is now a highly qualified instructor, certified by GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) in both Fundamentals and Recreational diving. He has been teaching with GUE since 2018 and is experienced in Cave, CCR, and Technical diving. Alain finds great joy in sharing his knowledge and passion for diving through transformative courses that empower divers to reach their full potential.

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