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10 tips to equalize while diving

Equalizing, also known as equalization, is a technique used by divers to equalize the pressure in their middle ear with the ambient pressure of the surrounding water. This is necessary because as a diver descends, the pressure of the water increases, and without equalizing, the diver may experience discomfort or even pain in the ears due to the pressure difference. Equalizing helps to prevent this and allows the diver to descend and ascend safely.

There are several techniques that divers can use to equalize, including pinching the nostrils and blowing gently through the nose, swallowing, or using the “Valsalva” technique, which involves exhaling gently while holding the nostrils closed and the mouth closed or tightly pursed.

It is important for divers to equalize regularly and consistently throughout the dive to avoid ear discomfort and to reduce the risk of barotrauma, which is an injury to the ear caused by changes in pressure.

10 tips to easily equalize while diving

  1. Start equalizing early and often. As soon as you start to descend, begin equalizing to keep ahead of the pressure change.

  2. Use the appropriate technique. Choose a technique that works best for you and practice it regularly to ensure that you can equalize effectively.

  3. Don’t hold your breath. Exhale gently while equalizing to avoid increasing the pressure in your middle ear.

  4. Pinch your nostrils. Pinching your nostrils closed can help to prevent air from escaping and make it easier to equalize.

  5. Relax. Try to relax your throat and jaw muscles to make it easier to equalize.

  6. Stay hydrated. Proper hydration can help to keep your sinuses and Eustachian tubes moist, which can make it easier to equalize.

  7. Use decongestants before diving. If you have a cold or allergies, consider taking a decongestant before diving to help clear your sinuses and make it easier to equalize.

  8. Use ear drops. Ear drops can help to keep your ears lubricated and make it easier to equalize.

  9. Use a diving mask with a nose pocket. Some diving masks have a built-in pocket for your nose, which can make it easier to equalize by allowing you to pinch your nostrils closed.

  10. Seek help if you have difficulty equalizing. If you are unable to equalize despite using the appropriate techniques, stop your descent and seek help from a dive professional. It is important to never force equalization, as this can cause injury.

Header image credits: Chase Baker


Colin is Padi certified Divemaster, loves diving with the larger marine species around the world, and writing code.

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