We all know that your ears can sometimes be the Achilles of your dive. Half way through the day your ears start getting “sticky” and then your day is done when you can no longer equalize. I recently had this happen, but was too stubborn to call it a day. I had to fight an ear infection for a week because of it.
For those of you that have taken a freediving class, you’ve heard the instructor preach the importance of equalizing.
“You can never equalize too much, and at any time you start having problems, immediately stop!”
I know this because it’s what I teach in my classes. I tell my students that it’s never worth the ear problems, just stop!
I was spearfishing locally in the Gulf of Mexico here off Tampa, Florida. We were having a great day, I was staying hydrated, equalizing was fine, and we were finding the fish. In looking for new spots, we came across this shallow spot in 30 to 40 feet. Almost every drop we’d find a nice hogfish. After getting a couple hogs on the boat, I did a dive and my right ear was really starting to “stick”. I knew what I needed to do, it was time to go to the boat, drink more water, and take a little time off. This might be the end of my day. We’ve gotten some fish, so I wouldn’t be going home empty handed. Well, we’re in a spot loaded with fish and I decided to not take my own advice. Not follow the same rule I preach. I pushed through it and all of a sudden my ear was fine. We finished in that spot and we decided to call it a day. Heading back I couldn’t figure out why my ear still felt like there was water in it. No matter how much I tried to wiggle my head, the water wasn’t coming out. I then realized what I did. I caused a barotrauma. My inner ear was filled with fluid. Hearing was muffled in that ear, and I knew this was going to stop my diving for at least a week.
Getting home, my ear started to feel better. Hearing came back, but when I equalized, I could still hear fluid in there. Hoping it wouldn’t cause an infection, I just stayed as hydrated as possible. Two days later, I woke up in the morning with that noticeable pain…. Ear infection was underway. All because I wanted to “push it”.
Thankfully, a quick google search found that garlic is the natural cure for an ear infection. I followed the instructions I found on a medical site and my ear is nearly 100% after two days. I could have avoided all of this if I would have just taken the advice I give. If you feel even the slightest ear discomfort, or have any problem equalizing, DO NOT PUSH IT! I got out of this easy. It could have turned out much worse.