bad ears can scuba dive
October 26, 2005 12:57 PM   Subscribe

will my girlfriend be able to scuba dive? She has ear problems.

She's got really sensitive ears and getting water in them leads to ear infections. Basically swimming with her head under water is a challege for her, although this may partly be because she's used to not doing it to protect her ears. She's tried swimming with ear plugs before but had some comfort issues with them...i could go on about her condition but I assume people that could answer this question are familiar with this type of situation.
given the strain scuba diving places on the ears, do i have any hope of turning my girlfriend into a dive buddy?
posted by alkupe to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've never seen them used, but there are dive masks that prevent water from getting into a person's ears.
posted by Staggering Jack at 1:07 PM on October 26, 2005

I would have guessed she'd be out of luck, but if her ears are clear enough to equalize and she uses this mask, maybe it'll work out.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:12 PM on October 26, 2005

I've seen those masked used, but don't know how effective they are.
There are also special plugs, but again, I don't know how effective they are.
Otherwise, just clean them out.
You might give ScubaBoard a search.
posted by mister e at 1:17 PM on October 26, 2005

The real concern is whether your girlfriend is able to equalize pressure in her inner ear with the ambient pressure. If she has problems doing so, and a good indication would be if she has had problems with equalization on an airplane flight, then it would be a pretty bad idea for her to go diving. Conventional ear plugs are definitely not an option for scuba diving since they impede a diver's ability to equalize. The only earplug option that I know of is the vented version of Doc's Proplugs. I have a pair myself but there is still the possibility that the plugs will leak if not fitted or put in correctly (I've only worn them on about 5 or 6 dives and they only leaked once.) There are also options for drying her ears out, including several over-the counter options. Considering that it's a question of when rather than if she'll get water in her ears, I would look into ear-drying options.
On preview: the mask that Staggering Jack links to is an option, but I would suggest trying them before buying them. The extra air volume due to the ear cups will make the process of clearing a flooded mask more difficult, possibly requiring more than one breath. The ear cups may also be a little trickier to keep sealed because there's a whole lot more hair to get out of the way around the ears than around the eyes. Of course, if it works for your girlfriend go for it.
posted by ooga_booga at 1:25 PM on October 26, 2005

I would also second mister e's suggestion of visiting ScubaBoard. Good luck! Diving's a ton of fun, especially if you have a buddy to share it with!
posted by ooga_booga at 1:27 PM on October 26, 2005

Personally, I'd talk to Ear/Nose/Throat specialist before going ahead with this - as a child I had eardrum surgery and was forbidden to submerge my head because of the pressure differences and the possiblity of eardrum damage. This may not have anything to do with your girlfriend's malady, but I'd err on the side of caution.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 1:49 PM on October 26, 2005

I think snorkeling with good silicone earplugs might be a lot safer.
posted by luriete at 2:10 PM on October 26, 2005

If the issue is that wearing plugs is uncomfortable and water in her ear leads to infections I think a small eyedropper type bottle with some rubbing alcohol to use after submerging would be the way to go. However I concur with cpbc that if she's prone to ear infections it would be best to ask an ENT how she can best enjoy these activities and avoid future infections.
posted by phearlez at 2:32 PM on October 26, 2005

I've used rubbing alcohol to dry my ears before. Be assured it isn't a comfortable sensation. Not extremely painful, more akin to the pain associated with a scrape.

Point being I'm not going to do that again.
posted by shepd at 2:36 PM on October 26, 2005

I have a permanent T-Tube fitted, to drain fluid from my inner ear. And acording to my doctor I can not scuba. Which is a shame. As I spent two months living next door to a scuba center on Phi Phi Island in Thailand.

Your girlfriend should definately see her doctor before even thinking of scubaing.

Ive seen a couple of people who have had MAJOR scuba related ear infections. And they did not look good. And they never had problems before.

Personaly I would give it a miss. I have 50% hearing loss in my left ear, from a childhood infection, and its bloody annoying.
posted by gergtreble at 2:45 PM on October 26, 2005

I love scuba diving, and I can understand why you'd want your girlfriend to be your dive buddy, but ears and hearing are not to be trifled with. Don't ask us. Have your girlfriend go see an ENT. If you live in an area where diving is available, you should be able to find an ENT experienced in diving-related issues. Ear infections are sucky and painful, and to be avoided if possible, as repeated ear infections can cause permanent damage.

Another thought- if your girlfriend is anxious about her ears (and it sounds like that's a real possibility), she may have a hard time relaxing enough to either find it enoyable, or even find it do-able.

Find another dive buddy, and share your dives with your girlfriend through the wonders of underwater photography.
posted by ambrosia at 5:09 PM on October 26, 2005

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