Diving and Ear Problems


Diving is fun, but not without risk to your ears.

Most injuries result from the increased pressure from the water that is put on the ears. When you descend in the water, the pressure in the middle of the ear doesn’t have time to adjust to the pressure outside the ear.

The first 10 to 15 feet of diving is usually when the ears are most affected.


Common Ear Problems

Swimmers Ear: This is a common condition that occurs whether you’re diving or swimming in a pool for a long period of time. The warm temperature of the body and water being trapped in the ear combine to create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. You will usually notice redness and tenderness of the ear as well as pain on the outside and in the middle of the ear. Wearing earplugs can help to prevent this condition, but an antibiotic can be given if you do get swimmers ear.

Middle Ear Barotrauma:This is an injury that often occurs shortly after diving, but some might experience the injury to the ears a day or two after diving. As you dive deeper into the water, more pressure is exerted on the middle of the ear. Fluid and blood can begin to leak into the middle ear, which can cause damage and an infection if left untreated. When you finish the dive, you might feel like the ears are clogged. There could be issues with hearing normally. When a doctor examines the ears, fluid can often be seen in the middle ear. The eardrum can also be affected, resulting in severe trauma that could mean hearing loss if it’s not treated as soon as possible. For most people, diving may need to be avoided in the future. Medications can be given to treat the injury.

Middle Ear Infection: An infection can occur in the middle ear any time after water lingers for an extended period of time. Bacteria will grow because of the moisture and the warmth of the body. Antibiotics will usually clear the infection.

Barotrauma of the Inner Ear: When you try to equalize the pressure in your ears on your own, trauma to the inner ear could occur. As the blowing occurs to try to stabilize the pressure, it often results in over-pressurizing, which results in extensive damage to the inner parts of the ear. At times, hearing loss can occur. When this type of trauma occurs, you might experience a loss of balance, nausea and vomiting, and a loud ringing sound in the ears. You should seek medical attention right away while keeping your head up as much as possible after getting out of the water.

In order to avoid some of the problems that can happen to the ear while diving, be sure to swim with the proper equipment and avoid descending at a rapid rate.