Hastening Drainage of Middle Ear Fluid

By Doc Vikingo

Query: December 3, 2009  

"Hi Doc,

I am absolutly new at diving. Went through the course and then last week-end went to Florida for my 4 check out dives. I didn't have a cold, but my partner thought it was a good idea to take sudafed just to make sure. I had a hard time equalizing, had to keep ascending slightly. After the first dive my ears were clogged, went down again, slightly easier to equalize, both dives weren't more than 10 meters each.

By the next morning my ears were fine, but I took two sudafed anyway. Dived to 20 meters, my instructor had me do the emergency ascent from 3 meters while saying ahhh, as you need that for check out, and I didn't want to do it the day before because of my ears. My ears squeeked like crazy on the ascent. But nothing else seemed out of line no pain. Went back down and then while trying to maintain neutral bouancy at 5 meters, accidently inflated my BCD rather than deflated, so I shot to the surface (saying shit the whole time, so I guess saved my lungs).

After the trip three days ago, my ears are still clogged, I saw my general doctor. She says there is blood in my middle ear. She is not a dive doc, and didn't know about diving, but couldn't recommend it....actually thought flying was a bad idea too.

We are going to Cozumel next week. Help! I really want to dive. Is there anything I can do to speed up healing? Is seeing an ENT dive doc recommended, would it help?

I read the article on different types of equalizing and its importance, sure wish my instructors had stressed that point a bit more.

Is there any hope of diving in a week? Also I started a salt water nasal douche hoping that might drag some of the gunk out of my middle ear.

Thanks, L..."


Answer: December 3, 2009

Hi L....,

That's unhappy news since SCUBA is out until a diver can equalize the ears in an entirely normal manner.

As regards hastening resolution, steps the diver can take on his or her own tend to be of rather limited effectiveness. Nasal/sinus lavage is unlikely to be of much benefit. One can try an OTC decongestant; a heating pad applied to the affected ear; sleeping laying on the side opposite the congested ear; and frequent, gentle clearing maneuvers periodically throughout the day, but don't expect miracles. Do monitor closely for infection.

A visit to the ENT would seem the best bet, but it'll have to quick if one is going to Coz to dive in a week. Treatment with prescription steroids and decongestants sometimes can hasten absorption/drainage of accumulated fluid within in the middle ear space. Mostly, however, it's a matter of tincture of time.

New diver's often having difficulty with clearing and the following video may prove quite useful:

The Diver's Ear---Under Pressure




This is educational only and does not constitute or imply a doctor-patient relationship. It is not medical advice to you or any other individual, and should not be construed as such.

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