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?