Can You Scuba Dive With a Perforated Eardrum?

Last Updated: February 24, 2023

Scuba diving requires you to take suitable measures along with the perfect diving wetsuit, the right equipment and proper training before you take the plunge. Going scuba diving following the necessary precautions ensures your safety and a better diving experience.

Have you considered scuba diving after detecting perforated eardrum? Let’s learn if such a condition provides a hospitable environment to go scuba diving.

Diving After a Perforated Eardrum

Scuba diving involves equalizing your dead air space of the middle ear with the underwater’s atmospheric pressure. Divers often experience ear pain, primarily due to smoking habits or allergies, which disrupts their diving experience.

When divers dive deeper into the water, the pressure increases on the external area of the ears. This increasing pressure squeezes the middle ear behind the eardrum. The pressure must reach the inner surface of the eardrum to equalize. This process is disrupted if you have a ruptured eardrum, causing ear pain.

Ear pain is not ideal for divers, as scuba diving involves diving deep into the waters causing low pressure. The pressure between the middle ear and the pressure outside in the seas is critical to match. The difference in the pressure can cause ear squeezes, leading to blocked ears or ear barotrauma.

scuba diving after perforated eardrum

What is a Perforated Eardrum?

A perforated or ruptured eardrum is the condition when the tissue separating the ear canal from the middle ear has a hole. It occurs due to a loud sound, rapid changes in pressure, head trauma, or middle ear infections.

Scuba diving requires a pressure balance of the middle ear with the external surface in the water. The middle ear is connected to the back of the nose by the Eustachian tube. While diving, the eustachian tube equalizes the pressure between the middle ear and the external surface.

When the Eustachian tube undergoes any malfunctioning, there’s a difference in the pressure across the eardrum.

Ear Pain Symptoms

Excessive pressure against the eardrum can be the cause of ear pain. Divers experience a feeling of fullness when at low pressure. With the increase in pressure, the eardrum expands inward, begins to swell, and causes pain.

Being at high pressure for a extended period may rupture the diver’s eardrum. In such cases, the diver may feel air bubbles coming out of the ear, which means the pain might be lessening. Following such an occurrence, the cold seawater enters the ear through the perforated eardrum inflicting a feeling of nausea or vomiting.

The diver may also go through a feeling of vertigo or may even become disoriented.

As the diver returns to the surface with a ruptured eardrum, they may feel the flow of fluid out of their ear or experience loss of hearing. There is also an exceptional case where the diver may undergo one-sided facial paralysis due to an ear squeeze.

Can You Scuba Dive With a Perforated Eardrum?

It would be best not to scuba dive if you have a ruptured eardrum. Being underwater for some extended time period means there will be pressure differences when you are at various altitudes.

Ear pain occurs when there is a malfunctioning of the Eustachian tube, which is likely when it faces rapid pressure changes. As the diver goes deeper into the sea, the Eustachian tube will let the middle ear’s pressure equalize with the water’s increasing pressure.

However, if the Eustachian tube fails to maintain the pressure balance, the seawater pressure will increase within the ear canal. It expands the eardrum inward and causes pain. Sometimes, the increased pressure in the eardrums may make them burst as well.

The best scenario, as experts suggest, will be to take the correct prevention measures before you go scuba diving. Wearing earplugs to save your ears from the cold seawater is always a good move.

It is, however, a different case scenario when you’ve had ear pain in the past and want to go scuba diving. In such situations, consulting your ear specialist before you dive would be great.

The possibilities of going back to diving once you’ve had perforated eardrums in the past vary from person to person.

Scuba Diving With Ear Problems

ear pressure equalizing

No scuba diver would enjoy diving with ear problems, not even the pro-level divers. The pain and the recovery time associated with ear problems feel like you’re aging. To mitigate such issues, divers need to practice equalization techniques.

There are many different equalization methods, such as voluntary tubal opening, Valsalva Maneuver, Frenzel Maneuver and Lowry technique. But the most widely utilized method is the Toynbee Maneuver. It involves pinching the nose up close and swallowing. The Eustachian tubes open once you swallow, while the tongue movement with the closed nose compresses air against the tubes.

Practicing this technique helps divers with ear problems to a great extent.

Final Word

Scuba diving with ear problems can be irritating, and it may ruin the whole experience.

If you’ve been suffering with any ear related issues or water has been stuck in your ear for too long, you should definitely consult a doctor.

Taking the proper safety measures will keep you geared for every diving trip. Nevertheless, divers with ear problems can practice equalization techniques to lessen such issues.

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