How to Protect Your Ears When Diving

How to Protect Your Ears When Diving

If you're a passionate scuba diver, you've likely encountered the nuisance of 'swimmer's ear'— that &#%!@ uncomfortable outer ear infection that can put a damper on your diving vacation! The combination of wet ears, wind, and tropical climates creates an ideal recipe for bacteria to thrive and cause discomfort, that can get worse if you don't handle it.

To ensure you make the most of every diving day on Koh Tao, Coral Grand Divers shares a handful of valuable tips: 

Tip 1: Pop Those Ears Early and Often While Diving

Don't wait to equalize! Popping your ears early doesn't just protect your eardrums; it's also a kind gesture to your ears, preventing any ouchie inflammation that could trap water and lead to unwanted infections. Remember, as you descend on your fun dives or Scuba Diving Course, equalize your ears immediately just below the surface. Continue to equalize every 0.6 to 0.9 meters, and if one ear feels blocked, stop immediately, ascend a bit, and try again. NEVER force an equalization to go deeper. Just stick to the ABCs: protect your airway, take it slow with your breath, and always equalize your mask and ears!

Scuba Diver equalizing his ears

Tip 2: Avoid Earplugs! Choose Your Ears' Safety

Say a big "no" to cotton pieces, regular earplugs, or anything else into your ears when you're diving. Solid earplugs hinder proper equalization, putting you at risk of barotraumas and eardrum troubles. Water pressure might push them deeper, posing a safety hazard. Special scuba diving earplugs with vents exist. Despite seeming attractive, they aren't foolproof. DAN (Divers Alert Network) advises against, due to insufficient data on their functionality underwater. While they might be great for surfing or swimming, using them for scuba diving needs extra caution. Always prioritize your ear safety over untested fixes!

Tip 3: Gentle on the Ears, Skip the Cotton Buds

Believe it or not, cotton buds and aggressive ear cleaning can do more harm than good. Earwax might seem annoying, but it's there for a reason – it shields your delicate ears from infection. If you suspect a wax buildup causing a blockage, don't go poking around. Seek professional help or consider home remedies (Ear- candles are often claimed to assist in clearing earwax plugs, but there is no medical evidence supporting this.) Letting earwax accumulate can create a spot for fungus, setting the stage for nasty ear infections.

Tip 4: Cozy Up Those Ears After Diving

Wind can be a sneaky culprit when it comes to ear infections. As you head back from your awesome dives, the breeze on the boat can get into your ears, cooling them down abruptly. This temperature drop, akin to catching a cold, reduces blood circulation, providing an ideal environment for bacterial growth and subsequent infections. If you're prone to this, bring along a hood or scarf to keep your ears warm and snug. And hey, be cautious of wet ears in the air-con—dry 'em up before bedtime and steer clear of sleeping with the AC blasting straight at your face!

Tip 5: Pre and Post-Dive Ear Maintenance

Don't believe the Hype - Not all seawater is as clean as it looks, especially near busy places! After your dive, ALWAYS give your ears a good rinse with drinking /clear water. Then, make sure to dry them well. This simple routine helps kick out those pesky bacteria and ensures your fun dives in Koh Tao stay infection-free!

Scuba Grandma's Tip for Ear Care!

  • Alcohol and vinegar: Alcohol dries the ear, while vinegar acidifies the ear canal, creating a defense against infection-causing bacteria! Craft a blend with 50% rubbing alcohol and 50% white vinegar! The key to effectiveness lies in proper application: Administer two to three drops in each ear in the morning, and repeat the process after concluding your diving activities for the day.
  • Olive oil: Combat dryness or itching by applying a drop of olive oil before diving. This natural lubricant repels water, creating a protective barrier. Choose pure olive oil or medical paraffin oil from the pharmacy. While some divers may find it challenging to equalize with oil in their ears, give it a try and see what suits you best!
  • Application Steps for Both:
  1. Ensure clean and dry ears.
  2. Tilt your head, gently pull your earlobe to straighten the ear canal.
  3. Apply drops with a clean dropper.
  4. Stay tilted for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Tilt your head back upright to let excess drain.
  6. Repeat the process for the other ear if needed.


Scuba divers on board

Tip 6: Keep Your Ears Happy and Stay Alert

If you experience any discomfort in your ears after a dive - take action, it's time for drops! Begin with swimmers' ear disinfectant drops that have anti-inflammatory properties. If there's no quick improvement, consider using antibiotic drops. Keep "a close eye" on your ears, and if the situation worsens, consult a doctor. They might prescribe oral antibiotics. Seeking medical help early is important, as an untreated infection can potentially harm your ears and impact your future diving experiences. Only resume diving when you're certain your ears are in good condition!


scuba divers in Koh Tao, Thailand

Remember, in diving, "no pain, no gain" should never be the motto. Taking care of your ears is essential, and they'll surely thank you for it. Wishing you a divetastic time filled with underwater wonders!

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