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  1. #1
    TDF Member NW6 1TH's Avatar
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    What to do if the Valsava manoeuvre doesn't work?

    Hello everybody,

    I am writing to ask you something on behalf of a friend who has found a problem during her OWD course, and doesn't know what to do. The instructor (the same as that from my own OWD course) doesn't have an answer. Everything went fine for my friend during the swimming pool sessions, but on going to the sea she started having trouble with her ears. I am going to translate exactly what she says (she doesn't speak English well).

    "I don't seem to be able to do the Valsava manoeuvre correctly. No matter how hard I try to blow, my ears don't pop. It's funny, because they do so all the time when I'm going up or down a mountain, whenever I swallow. In the swimming pool, I had already seen how swallowing would equalize my ears without any problem... Well, there was a problem, which was aggravated during my sea dives: I don't seem to know how to swallow when my mouth is empty, and it's difficult for me to gather enough spit when underwater. My mouth is dry, and not being able to close it and make whatever movements I need to do to produce spit because of the regulator makes it even more difficult. As a result, all my four dives were a complete disaster, as I couldn't think of anything else, I kept on going upwards and downwards, yo-yo-like, so I couldn't be certified.

    I know there is no problem with my ears. Last summer, I had to go to the ENT specialist to have a wax plug removed from one ear, and on commenting that I intended to do a diving course, he checked my ears' ability to compensate by making me open my mouth and applying pressure to my ears with a device. He said I could do it correctly, so I'm not worried about that. But I'm starting to get worried about the Valsava manoeuvre. So as not to fail again my next OWD course, I'm trying to practice it at home. I cannot make my ears pop, but after trying, I get a funny feeling in my ears for some time afterwards, and I'm afraid I may end up damaging my eardrums.

    I must say that even though it took ages for me to gather spit and make my ears pop while descending, so I couldn't equalize too often, I didn't feel any pain in my ears at any moment, except when ascending. This is something I had already noticed in the swimming pool: my ears hurt when I'm going upwards. It's not a terrible pain, but it's there, and in the sea, where the ascent was from much deeper, my ears started popping non-stop too, blowing a continuous raspberry, which was sort of disconcerting. After having finished the dives, there was no pain, either, though my ears kept on popping whenever I swallowed for many hours afterwards."

    This is the e-mail my friend has sent to me. Is there any way to know whether you're equalizing your ears often enough? Is the simple absence of pain a good indicator?

  2. #2
    #keepittea ebt's Avatar
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    Fresnel method works for me…..as does not descending head first.

  3. #3
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    I had issues with one ear when starting out, found that pinching the nose while blowing it and swallowing at the same time helped the ear pop. Its a bit difficult to do but keep at it, can be done on dry land aswell.

  4. #4
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    Equalise often and gently

    If itís starting to hurt itís too late

    If the friend has no problems in airctsft and pool but only in open water is the hood too tight. Can form a seal over the ear and prevent effective equalisation. A finger in the side of the hood to can help if this is the issue

  5. #5
    TDF Member NW6 1TH's Avatar
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    @ebt, thanks for mentioning the Fresnel method, which neither of us had heard about before. I've read an explanation on how it should be done, and it seems awfully complicated, but maybe some more reading or maybe watching videos will clarify it. My friend descended feet first.

    @James 1976, isn't what you describe actually the Valsava manoeuvre plus swallowing? If swallowing alone is enough, and the Valsava manoeuvre doesn't work, I suppose this is as good -for my friend- as just swallowing, which she finds difficult to do (though effective when achieved).

    @John63, that's exactly what my friend thought she should do. She was worried that she wasn't equalising often enough, and that worry is what prevented her from paying attention to buoyancy, trim and everything else, which resulted in her failing to get certified. She wasn't wearing a hood during the dives, so that wasn't the problem.

    Actually, she was able to equalise perfectly well when she swallowed... The problem is that she couldn't swallow as often as she would have liked to. So I suppose the solution is either finding an alternative method which isn't the Valsava manoeuvre (we'll have a look at the Fresnel method mentioned above), or finding a trick that helps her produce spit more easily.

  6. #6
    Established TDF Member Chrisch's Avatar
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    Sometimes people try too hard. This is quite common when learning to dive. Descending reasonably slowly you can just extend your jaw forward and this is often enough to equalise. Try it as you are sat there reading and you should hear a click as your jaw gets far enough forward. Personally I find I can usually equalise by doing this and need to do nothing else. When I first started diving I would equalise far too much and have given myself ear ache from time to time.

    If your friend can equalise by swallowing there is not an underlying issue IMHO. Descend a bit slower and build confidence and above all else do not concentrate on the "problem" just enjoy the dive. Anxiety is normal for new and training divers and will settle down over time.
    We give £350m a week to the EU. Let's give it to Dido Harding instead.

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    I always had ear problems when I first started, I was blatantly leaving it too long and trying to hard, resulting in perforating the same ear drum first. Nowadays I use a combination of valsalva and a gurn, I also use neil med sinus flushing before a days diving and it just loosens up the ears and gets everything moving nicely.

  8. #8
    Established TDF Member Energy58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrisch View Post
    Sometimes people try too hard. This is quite common when learning to dive. Descending reasonably slowly you can just extend your jaw forward and this is often enough to equalise. Try it as you are sat there reading and you should hear a click as your jaw gets far enough forward. Personally I find I can usually equalise by doing this and need to do nothing else. When I first started diving I would equalise far too much and have given myself ear ache from time to time.

    If your friend can equalise by swallowing there is not an underlying issue IMHO. Descend a bit slower and build confidence and above all else do not concentrate on the "problem" just enjoy the dive. Anxiety is normal for new and training divers and will settle down over time.
    ^This; dont push it and start clearing early and often - I tell people who have problems "clear as soon as your head is under water".

  9. #9
    Established TDF Member Finless's Avatar
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    Provided it is done very gently I always had success with pressurising a little bit in advance of the descent.

    Certainly something that can be practised above water, in my experience.

  10. #10
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    Is the fit of the hood too tight, can prevent the outer ear equalising? Solution ensure water is allowed to enter the outer ear. I've had a few students with this problem.

    As others have said equalise often and at small depth increments, I start at about 0.5 m and have 'cleared' every meter to about 10 before now.


 
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