How to Look After Your Ears on a Scuba Holiday
As a diver, knowing how to look after your ears on a scuba holiday is an important skill. Travel, tiredness, dust and prolonged time in the sea can all contribute to ear problems and congestion – and we want to make sure this doesn’t cause you any issues during your time in Fulidhoo! Here’s a few tips to help you ensure your ears stay happy and healthy during your stay.
1. Rinse your ears after every dive
We often forget that salt is actually quite abrasive. If you get a small cut from salt, it’s easier for bacteria to enter the soft skin, potentially leading to an infection. So it’s much better not leave your ear canals salty for an extended period of time. When you surface from a dive, pour a small amount of drinking water into a bottle cap or similar, lean to one side and pour it into your ear. Make sure you can feel the water filling your ear, and then let it flow out again.
2. Isopropyl and vinegar help dry out moisture and prevent infection – make or buy some drops!
After rinsing your ears, you might also want to make sure you remove any remaining moisture with some alcohol drops. This is not a must for everyone – and you might not want to do it after every dive – but if your ears are sensitive you might want to think about bringing some ear drops with you. You can either buy an over the counter remedy – such as Swimmer’s Ear Drops – or you can even make your own using equal parts of isopropyl and vinegar. Isopropyl, also known as rubbing alcohol, will dry out your ear. The acidity of vinegar will help prevent bacteria growth. Some people even put a drop of olive oil in their ears before a dive to coat the ear and prevent bacteria entering the skin.
Consult your pharmacist for the best advice, as we are not medical practitioners.
3. And if you do want to dry your ears, gently use a tissue and avoid cotton buds!
Cotton buds, also known as q-tips, can cause serious damage to your ear canal, especially when used with too much force! As tempting as it might be to use a cotton bud in your ear if it feels like there’s some water stuck in there, try to rely on time and gravity instead. Remember, when the skin in your ear is wet, it’s even more fragile. If you really have to, use the corner of a tissue.
4. If you can’t equalise your ears on a dive, don’t force it!
This point is for those new to scuba diving. Equalising should be fairly gentle. If you can’t feel a release of pressure, don’t be afraid to signal to your guide that you need to ascend and try equalising at a more shallow depth. Don’t wait until you feel pain. And never be afraid of ending a dive if you cannot equalise. Don’t do something today that might stop you from diving tomorrow – or for even longer! Also, familiarise yourself with all the methods of equalising if pinching your nose and blowing doesn’t work. Try wiggling your jaw or swallowing.
5. Resist the urge to equalise when not in the water
If your ears feel blocked in the evening after a dive, you should resist the urge to continually equalise your air spaces, like you would do on a dive. People tend to be overly forceful when attempting to equalise a blocked ear, and end up causing more damage to their ears by inflaming them.
6. Stay Hydrated!
This should almost be the first point. when assessing how to look after your ears on a scuba holiday, do not underestimate the effects of being dehydrated. One of which is causing thicker mucus in the sinuses, which in turn affects your ability to equalise. By drinking plenty of water, the eustachian tubes in your ears will function more optimally.
7. Don’t sleep with the air conditioning on full blast.
This is a common issue – especially for our guests from Europe, who are not used to sleeping with an AC unit on. In Maldives, it’s always very hot outside and it might be tempting to crank up the AC to cool down. But overnight, you might get cold and this might lead to congestion in your sinuses. We recommend no colder that 25C.
8. If in doubt, get checked out!
If you have any concern about your ears, it’s much better to be safe than sorry. On Fulidhoo we have a medical clinic with a doctor and two nurses. We recently certified Dr Mohammed as a PADI Open Water Diver (and he’s been reading the Encyclopedia of Diving!) so he really understands what happens under water! It costs 15USD to consult him and we can arrange a consultation almost immediately – so it’s better to get the all clear from him before you go diving.
9. Do some further reading and consult your physician.
The information given in this article is based on personal experience but we are not doctors. Luckily, there is plenty of advice out there for you to read. The DAN (Divers Alert Network) has this great article about ears and diving. The PADI blog has also written about this topic.
Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional about how to look after your ears on a scuba holiday – or with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.