I Can Hear Clearly Now, the Pain is Gone!
Okay, the pun is a little much I know. The important thing is, it’s true! You see, for some reason when I am scuba diving I have a very difficult time equalizing my ears while descending. For anyone who has ever felt that pressure squeeze, you’ll know it can be very painful and distracting when you are just trying to have a good time diving. There were multiple times even in our training pool dives that I just could not get my ears to equalize properly only going down to 12 feet! Not only was it a problem during the dive, my ears (especially my right ear) would hurt for a week or more and cause muffled hearing.
After looking up the problems I was having online, I discovered that the continuing pain was a good indicator that I was doing real damage to my eardrum, duh. I decided I needed to do something to protect myself from permanent hearing loss, but I didn’t know what. Dan uses a special mask that covers his ears because he has surgical tube implants in his right ear and can’t get his ears wet, but it’s a pretty expensive mask and I wasn’t entirely sure that would help my equalization problems. At this point though, I was starting to feel like I needed to find a solution or I wouldn’t be able to dive anymore.
Finally, when I was researching the problem I found what I thought might be a real solution. On a few of the scuba forums, people were discussing the use of vented ear plugs while diving. The idea was a little scary because one of the first lessons you learn about diving is how wearing normal earplugs actually creates a negative pressure zone between your eardrum and the plug and can cause worse damage than wearing no plug. However, the vented ear plugs have a vent to allow air to escape from that pocket. I wanted to try them out, but our local dive shop didn’t sell them and I was wary of buying some online without being able to see them first.
Then, on our trip to Bull Shoals (yes the one where I came home with staples in my head) the boat dock was selling JBL Hydro Seals. To quote the JBL website they “utilize an advanced multi-baffle polymer design providing exceptional protection against water entering the ear canal.” And they work! I used them for the first time on our advanced training deep dive, and I have never had an easier time equalizing my ears. To be perfectly honest, I’m still not entirely sure why they work, but I know that I won’t be diving without them again. Another bonus is that because of the vented design, you can still hear normally while wearing them, so you don’t have to worry about missing anything important or need to wait to put them in until you are getting in the water.
To recap: if your ears hurt from diving, buy some JBL Hydro Seals*. You won’t be sorry!
*Another popular brand of vented earplugs is Doc’s Proplugs, though I haven’t personally tried these they also get good reviews online.