Equalizing your ears

equalizeYou jump off the boat, turn to your buddy and give the down signal then start descending. No more than 2 feet down you feel it, the pressure in your ears. No problem you think, just pinch and blow and everything will be right as rain. But that glorious squeak doesn't happen and your buddy is already at 30 feet. You yo yo up and down trying to clear your ears with no luck and you see your dive group get further and further away. As your buddy waits at thirty feet you look at your air, 500 psi/30 bar used up already and its only 2 minutes into the dive!!!

We've all been there and this is common in new divers. The more you dive the easier it gets to equalize but there are a few things to consider along the way.


Are you equalizing correctly?

You pinch and blow, great. But are you blowing through your nose or your mouth? The Valsalva maneuver only works if the blow through your nose. You don't have to blow forcefully, just a gentle push.



Which way are you looking? We all tend to look down when we equalize but that closes the airway, look up until you can see the surface.

Try swallowing (no not ocean water silly).You can wiggle your jaw too. 

Are you equalizing as soon as you're under water or waiting to feel the pressure? Don't wait for the feeling, equalize early and often. The biggest pressure change is in the first 15 feet so equalize equalize equalize, even if you don't need it. Once you are past 30 feet or so you will see you don't need to equalize as often

Are you going up a few feet to reattempt a nose blow? Going up a little lessens the pressure, I have gone all the way back to the surface before I was able to clear my ears.

Your mask

Your mask can be a big reason why you can't equalize. When fitting people for a mask I always ask if they can pinch their nose. If you can only pinch the tip of your nose, you won't be able to equalize efficiently if at all. You could press in the nose pocket to your face to try and get a pinch but I find that is hit and miss. Best bet is to use a good fitting mask.


If you are congested sometimes equalizing may be impossible. Don't dive when you have a cold and be aware that some foods my cause mucus build up. Never take any cold medication for a dive without consulting your doctor. Often many over the counter medications wear off during the dive and that can cause issues such as a reverse block or vertigo during your ascent. ***Never use salt water like a saline nasal rinse, you run a chance of getting an infection

Ear wax

We all have ear wax especially in hot climates where we sweat a lot. I personally tend to get ear wax buildup in my ear that I sleep on. There are several method for cleaning ears and your doctor can tell you whats best for you


These are a few tip on equalizing your ears. Be patient, it takes time. Remember if you can't equalize right away you can swim along with your group at a shallower depth until you can. If you can't equalize end the dive.  I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV so if you have equalizing issues that cause discomfort or end your dives, see a doctor