So let’s look at some popular equalisation techniques:
- Valsava technique – one of the easiest techniques, this involves closing the mouth, pinching the nostrils and blowing air into the mouth. This technique is safe for use at any depth.
- Frenzel technique – a little more difficult, this non-diaphragmatic version of the technique involves closing the mouth and pinching the nostrils again. Then, the diver must fill their mouth with air and close their throat off. They then move their soft palate to neutral and perform a tongue block (this position is achieved when we utter the letter ‘K’). When pushing the tongue up in this position, the ears should become pressurised.
- Diaphragmatic Frenzel technique – safe at depths of 50 – 90m, this technique begins with closed mouth and pinched nostrils. The diver must then fill their mouth with air by pushing their stomach in and allowing the force from the diaphragm to fill their moth with air. The rest of the technique mimics the non-diaphragmatic technique with the closed throat, neutral soft palate and pushing upwards of the tongue.
- Beance Tubaire Volontaire (BTV) – this is quite a difficult technique to achieve. The diver must contract the muscles of their soft palate and the throat muscles are used to pull open the Eustachian tube. To create this, try yawning. The way the back of your throat feels at the end of the yawn is similar to BTV.
- Saline 'wet' equalisation – this should only be done by experts as it’s difficult to get right. The process begins by allowing sea water to flood your sinus by taking off your nose clip. You then follow the Frenzel technique to achieve equalisation. As it sounds, this can be dangerous so make sure you have an expert on hand to show you the ropes!
These are just a few of the techniques that can be used to equalise the ear. They all take some getting used to, so don’t be put off if it feels odd at first.
If you are having trouble equalising, connect with an expert (be that through friends, clubs or the web) and ask for a demonstration. Learning how to equalise properly is the path to enjoyable, pain-free diving experiences. Practise in a pool if you are feeling unsure, get used to the techniques and sensations in shallow, safer water before attempting the techniques in the open water.