First dive and certification...things to keep in mind

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Samson

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I'm finally signed up for my first scuba course after a few years of delay. I'll be at PCH Scuba here in California and I'm doing their Open Water Diver Course and decided to add the Peak Performance Buoyancy and Enriched Air Nitrox classes as one package over the course of two weekends.

Admittedly I'm a bit nervous. I think I've spent too much time on here reading stories about all the different barotraumas people have experienced, from veteran divers to newbies, and the horrible symptoms they had to deal with thereafter.

Knowing that, what should I be looking out for in these dives to prevent any ear damage? Is it really as simple as equalize often and early and pausing/stopping if I feel anything weird, painful, etc? Anything else that you wish you knew going in to your first dive that I should keep in mind?
 

Marie13

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Start equalizing on the surface. If ear hurts, don’t descend. Go up a bit and try again to clear. If you’re wearing a hood, pull it away from your head on both sides to let water in. Otherwise, it sort of acts as a vacuum and can prevent equalization.
 

TerryC

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Start equalizing on the surface. If ear hurts, don’t descend. Go up a bit and try again to clear. If you’re wearing a hood, pull it away from your head on both sides to let water in. Otherwise, it sort of acts as a vacuum and can prevent equalization.
That's the way to do it.!
Don't overthink everything and stress yourself. Scuba training at this level is all about state of mind. Try to relax and enjoy it.
 

nolatom

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Do you have any difficulty equalizing with nose-pinch on shore? Or in your pool classes?? If not, then you shouldn't have a problem in the water.

Of course the pressure differentials are greater than on land. And descending is more "pay-attention" than ascending. You have to pinch nose going down, not so much coming up, they sort of clear themselves.

It's the first 20 - 30 feet descending which are the most important, so pinch and "push" (as you learned in class) early and often. Do it "early" so you don't feel any ear pain. And relax as much as you can- once you've cleared them a couple of times, you'll have confidence more and more.

Hint: don't obsess about all the bad things in your paragraph 2 above. It's not going to happen, and if you feel pain in your ears, just stop your descent and equalize.

If you are descending down a boat anchor line, it's easier than free descent since you can just grip the line to stop if needed.
 
OP
Samson

Samson

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I appreciate the replies and I will definitely do my best to relax and enjoy. I'm sure I'm overthinking this.

@nolatom No problems equalizing on land but I've yet to start the course so I'll have to see how things go in the pool.
 

wetb4igetinthewater

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I would recommend instead of learning the Vasalva technique, learning other equalizing techniques: https://dan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/smartguide_ears_2017_lores.pdf

The Vasalva technique is easiest, but it is also the most prone to injury. Sure, training materials can say "gently", but guess what happens when a person is having difficulty equalizing? They sometimes (not always) will blow harder. And people have ear injuries as a result. It is better to learn other methods that are safer.
 

Brett Hatch

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Hi Samson, welcome to Scuba Board.

For me, my left ear is always a little harder to clear than my right one. But I didn't realize that at first, so on my first dives in the ocean I was just listening for "a click", not "both clicks", and ended up with a slight barotrauma on the left ear. I have since learned to listen for the little click sound in both ears, separately, and pay special attention to whether I heard the click sound in my left ear.

When you practice clearing on the surface, you might want to try listening for the click sound in each ear, and see if you can distinguish between them. If I had done that, I would have been much better off for my first dives.

Best of luck, I think you're in for a real treat. Those first few experiences of breathing underwater, and floating neutrally buoyant are very good, clear memories in my mind, that I still look fondly on them a few years down the line.
 

SlugMug

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I'm finally signed up for my first scuba course after a few years of delay. I'll be at PCH Scuba here in California and I'm doing their Open Water Diver Course and decided to add the Peak Performance Buoyancy and Enriched Air Nitrox classes as one package over the course of two weekends.

Admittedly I'm a bit nervous. I think I've spent too much time on here reading stories about all the different barotraumas people have experienced, from veteran divers to newbies, and the horrible symptoms they had to deal with thereafter.

Knowing that, what should I be looking out for in these dives to prevent any ear damage? Is it really as simple as equalize often and early and pausing/stopping if I feel anything weird, painful, etc? Anything else that you wish you knew going in to your first dive that I should keep in mind?
Usually, if someone signs up for Open Water, I'd suggest getting some dive experience before worrying about other classes. However, if you're getting a solid discount with the extra courses, then maybe it's worth it.

There are numerous different types of compression or de-compression injuries, and your open-water class will teach you about what those injuries are, and how to avoid them.

It's good that you want to be safe. The simplest way to avoid being injured is to plan your dives, descend at a reasonable rate, and ascend at a reasonable rate. They will instruct you with vasalva-technique, although there are others as mentioned above. Your class should also instruct you to not dive when you have any sort of sinus or ear issues.

I appreciate the replies and I will definitely do my best to relax and enjoy. I'm sure I'm overthinking this.

@nolatom No problems equalizing on land but I've yet to start the course so I'll have to see how things go in the pool.
It's cool, once you get into diving, you'll be like the rest of us nerds who love talking about these kinds of subjects. Everything from gear-configurations, risks, techniques, and so-on. Over time, and once you start diving, this kind of thing will freak you out a lot less.

My own concern, before I was a diver, was the idea of running out of air unexpectedly. I mean, yes it's possible, but not something most divers really need to worry about once you start to get a good idea of your air-consumption at various depths, and monitoring your air more frequently at depth. And if you're actually concerned, there's always redundancy like adding a pony-bottle and pony-regs, or having a competent dive-buddy.

If you have trouble of any sort with the class, feel free to ask here. Or just ask your dive-instructor; most dive-instructors get into instructing because they love diving and sharing knowledge .... the vast majority of dive instructors make almost $0.
 
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Samson

Samson

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I would recommend instead of learning the Vasalva technique, learning other equalizing techniques: https://dan.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/smartguide_ears_2017_lores.pdf

The Vasalva technique is easiest, but it is also the most prone to injury. Sure, training materials can say "gently", but guess what happens when a person is having difficulty equalizing? They sometimes (not always) will blow harder. And people have ear injuries as a result. It is better to learn other methods that are safer.

I have the Tonybee and Lowry techniques down as well beyond Valsalva. I've also had success with moving my jaw, just swallowing, etc. But I'll have to give all of these a go underwater to see which I have the most success with.

Hi Samson, welcome to Scuba Board.

For me, my left ear is always a little harder to clear than my right one. But I didn't realize that at first, so on my first dives in the ocean I was just listening for "a click", not "both clicks", and ended up with a slight barotrauma on the left ear. I have since learned to listen for the little click sound in both ears, separately, and pay special attention to whether I heard the click sound in my left ear.

When you practice clearing on the surface, you might want to try listening for the click sound in each ear, and see if you can distinguish between them. If I had done that, I would have been much better off for my first dives.

Best of luck, I think you're in for a real treat. Those first few experiences of breathing underwater, and floating neutrally buoyant are very good, clear memories in my mind, that I still look fondly on them a few years down the line.

Brett, I also have the same issue with my left ear, at least on the surface. Ultimately, both ears click, pop, open, etc. but it takes my left ear a few tries whereas my right ear just takes one. I will definitely keep this in mind when I dive and make sure I get a result in both ears.

@SlugMug I'm saving a couple hundred buck by combining the classes. I figured why not but if it's not recommended I can always change to the open water course and then get credit for the other two at a later time.

I've had lots of questions on here before and I'm sure I'll have much more once I start diving, geeking out is no problem for me 🤓
 
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