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

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Cthippo

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I didn't see when you are starting, but some of these skills you can practice by yourself in the pool before you start your class (or in a lake, etc if it is warm enough). Clearing your ears is one of them. I have to start clearing my ears at about 5 feet and that is easily achievable in most pools. You can also practice mask clearing, including full removal, in the pool, along with getting used to your fins.
 

dflaher

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Yeah, start equalizing early. It doesn’t hurt to do it a few times the days before. Helps to loosen up the Eustachian tube before the dives.
Good suggestion. I start on the flight to wherever I'm diving.

And don't worry about being nervous. I've been on over 20 dive trips and I still get nervous on the first dive of every trip. On the first descent I take it nice and slow - usually the last one down and by the 3rd day I'm waiting for the rest of the group.

When you think about it, unless you're lucky enough to live near the shore or wealthy enough to dive once a month, it's something that most people do only once or twice a year. So nervousness will always be there...just know some nervousness is healthy - it means you're aware of the risks but in time you will know how to mitigate them.
 

El Diablo

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That simply isn't true. First, a number of people I know have damaged their eardrums using Vasalva, hence I have become pretty adament at advising others to learn other methods for equalization. They are more difficult to learn, but they are safe. Vasalva is not. Just because you and I and millions of others haven't damaged yet (as far as each individual knows) our ears, doesn't mean that others have not and it is not without risk.


DAN does state in 6 Methods to Equalize Your Ears - Divers Alert Network the following:
the Valsalva maneuver has three problems:
  1. It does not activate muscles which open the Eustachian tubes, so it may not work if the tubes are already locked by a pressure differential.
  2. It’s too easy to blow hard enough to damage something.
  3. Blowing against a blocked nose raises your internal fluid pressure, including the fluid pressure in your inner ear, which may rupture your “round windows.” So don’t blow too hard, and don’t maintain pressure for more than five seconds.

I'd recommend searching for posts by @Angelo Farina on this topic.
First of all, I was referring that it is not so easy to damage the eardrums from increasing pressure because someone forgets to equalize. Increasing pressure and ultimately pain are good reminders.
Nevertheless, regarding the Valsava method, I believe you've answered the first part yourself. The fact that Millions of divers + myself have not damaged our drums in many, many years should cover it.

I agree with the fact that there are other methods for equalizing but the percentage of people capable of doing so is really small and that's why the majority of the agencies stick to the Valsava method. I didn't said that divers shouldn't try those as well, I stated that at least for the beginning, sticking to things that work and simplify the task makes sense. I see no need to task overload students.

Furthermore, in any class I assisted, we show the learners the other methods and ask them to try them above water. As I said, a very small percentage is able to equalize consistently and convincingly with those methods while with the Valsava maneuver, not only the success rate is by far better but all students are able to recognize what is going on: 99%* of students trying the Toynbee technique (for those who don't know, it is based on swallowing saliva while pushing air to the back of your throat / up your nose with your tongue) didn't got a convincing 'pop' while with the Valsava, they can simply feel it.
I do like the Frenzel technique BUT this means that the students need to learn how to contract (open / close) the vocal fold instead of just pinching their nose and blowing... too much for a beginner IMO.

You can hurt yourself obviously if you don't equalize often and then try to force it by blowing air very strong but this is something one should avoid initially as you already know and probably teach. As simple as ascending a couple feet and trying again.

Closing, please don't scare @Samson, he is just starting and feeling nervous as expected. He is not going to damage anything by using the Valsava maneuver, quite the opposite. Let's keep things simple and stress free for this new diver :)

* not actual percentage, just used to make a point.
 

wetb4igetinthewater

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First of all, I was referring that it is not so easy to damage the eardrums from increasing pressure because someone forgets to equalize. Increasing pressure and ultimately pain are good reminders.
Nevertheless, regarding the Valsava method, I believe you've answered the first part yourself. The fact that Millions of divers + myself have not damaged our drums in many, many years should cover it.
Here is the thing. This is anecdotal. I've pushed it on occasion with using the Vasalva technique. I suspect that this is not uncommon. We really have no idea as to how problematic this is. We do know that the life of scuba divers isn't very long. Is this one factor? Perhaps. That is pure speculation on my part.
I agree with the fact that there are other methods for equalizing but the percentage of people capable of doing so is really small and that's why the majority of the agencies stick to the Valsava method. I didn't said that divers shouldn't try those as well, I stated that at least for the beginning, sticking to things that work and simplify the task makes sense. I see no need to task overload students.
That's a teaching issue. The problem is that instructors are not taught. Please watch @Angelo Farina 's posts, as he did train under one of the inventors of one of the safer methods. He was surprised that Vasalva was still taught.
Furthermore, in any class I assisted, we show the learners the other methods and ask them to try them above water. As I said, a very small percentage is able to equalize consistently and convincingly with those methods while with the Valsava maneuver, not only the success rate is by far better but all students are able to recognize what is going on: 99%* of students trying the Toynbee technique (for those who don't know, it is based on swallowing saliva while pushing air to the back of your throat / up your nose with your tongue) didn't got a convincing 'pop' while with the Valsava, they can simply feel it.
I do like the Frenzel technique BUT this means that the students need to learn how to contract (open / close) the vocal fold instead of just pinching their nose and blowing... too much for a beginner IMO.
Lots of people think not placing students on their knees is too much for a beginner. That's an instructor competence issue, as is teaching other equalization methods.
You can hurt yourself obviously if you don't equalize often and then try to force it by blowing air very strong but this is something one should avoid initially as you already know and probably teach. As simple as ascending a couple feet and trying again.

Closing, please don't scare @Samson, he is just starting and feeling nervous as expected. He is not going to damage anything by using the Valsava maneuver, quite the opposite. Let's keep things simple and stress free for this new diver :)
I wish you could guarantee that, but you can't. Statistically he probably won't, but he is not guaranteed to not do so.
* not actual percentage, just used to make a point.
 

El Diablo

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Here is the thing. This is anecdotal. I've pushed it on occasion with using the Vasalva technique. I suspect that this is not uncommon. We really have no idea as to how problematic this is. We do know that the life of scuba divers isn't very long. Is this one factor? Perhaps. That is pure speculation on my part.

That's a teaching issue. The problem is that instructors are not taught. Please watch @Angelo Farina 's posts, as he did train under one of the inventors of one of the safer methods. He was surprised that Vasalva was still taught.

Lots of people think not placing students on their knees is too much for a beginner. That's an instructor competence issue, as is teaching other equalization methods.

I wish you could guarantee that, but you can't. Statistically he probably won't, but he is not guaranteed to not do so.
The first part I do believe is speculation. Most divers are using the Valsava technique for years and the majority has no issues. Regarding the lifespan of a diver I believe it is quite the opposite. Other health conditions might be the limiting factor, being overweight, cardiovascular problems, etc.

With all the respect to Mr. Farina, the majority of diving organizations still teach the Valsava maneuver because it works, it is easy and if learned and executed properly, pauses almost no risk. As I previously wrote, the other methods are not so easy to implement and are strongly dependent on physiology and muscle control. Not so intuitive. I also believe that the fact that the Valsava technique has prevailed has to do with the length of the OW course. Perhaps adding a few more hours / days to try to implement didactics derived from Free Diving could indeed change the standard but that would automatically mean more time and effort that I am not sure dive instructors are willing to invest.

I also learned to perform many exercises kneeing down, like many others, it has never manifested in any kind of issue I couldn't deal with while diving. I am sure that divers that feel comfortable in this environment ('naturals') might benefit from this but on the other hand, I've assisted courses where students had huge buoyancy problems, were quite nervous and had to repeat the exercises again and again. I am not sure they would have managed and / or have being discouraged if we had added an additional layer of difficulty and multitasking. Again, this is a personal opinion as I have no experience with the method. It seems logical thought, at least for calmer prospects.

Of course I cannot guarantee anything, I can only speak from experience. If he equalizes blowing gently air while pinching his nose often, he will not suffer any injury. As you said, statistically he probably won't.
 

pasley

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It is very simple. To reduce risk (not eliminate it) read the written material (online or hardcopy) and/or watch the provided videos 3 times at a minimum. You will notice things the third time you did not notice before. Everyone learns differently to go with what works best for you. Either way at least 3 times through all the material. I would recommend even if you watch the videos as your preferred method, you read the printed material at least once too. EVERY word in the material is important, not just what is in the quizzes or highlighted for you. Listen to the instructor. If the instructor is sharing stories that happened to someone, listen carefully, they are sharing someone's misadventure to help you remember why this is important. Remember you are studying this material to live, not just to pass a test. Remember the solution to any problem you have in the water is down where you are. Stop, Think, Act. Rember your buddy is (should be and it is your responsibility to keep them) as close as you want to swim after you have exhaled a breath and then inhaled only to be greeted by the sensation of inhaling through your mouth on an empty soda bottle/can. In short, if your buddy is not within arms reach whose fault is it, yours! Ok and a little bit theirs too. Your instructor will teach you to dive. The skill of diving is as simple as breathe always (never ever hold your breath), ascending slowly and for the last 15 feet after your safety stop, it is CRITICAL that you do so at a glacial pace, Check your air... All of your air including your air on your dive buddies' back (Your emergency air), check your depth, clear your ears early, and often. Follow your dive table or dive computer and the plan. Dive sober and only when you are feeling well, hydrated, and rested. The rest of the course is about emergency situations, yours or someone else's and what to do.
 

Lorenzoid

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Closing, please don't scare @Samson, he is just starting and feeling nervous as expected. He is not going to damage anything by using the Valsava maneuver, quite the opposite. Let's keep things simple and stress free for this new diver :)
I wholeheartedly agree. This thread seems to be veering into exactly the kind of discussion that Samson saw in other threads and apparently led him to believe that difficulty equalizing and/or injury is more common than it really is.

My advice is to keep it simple for the new diver until if and when they say they’re having a problem. Then, we’re more than happy to help :)
 
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Samson

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After many delays, I finally got this going and finished classroom.

I just returned from my confined dive class and unfortunately I had to cut it short. I just could not equalize. I didn't really feel a pressure gradient as I descended but what I did feel was pain. At a certain depth there was pain and the only thing that would remedy that was ascending.

I was using Valsalva the entire way down but I felt it did nothing for me at any depth. I did not see any change or release in any pressure/pain, no pops, clicks, ear opening, etc like I get when I move my jaw or yanw or swallow. I tried pinching my nose and swallowing but that only helped my right ear a little; I felt some air escaping very slowly with each swallow but it was taking a long time to have a meaningful effect and I was holding everyone up.

I also felt a lot of pain ascending as my ears opened up. These were dives to about 10ft and after a few of them I called it quits. I'm back home now and my ears open and pop and click just fine, although my left ear feels a bit stuffed. I hope I didn't cause any damage :(

Not sure how to proceed from here. I have to re-try the pool dive before going to the ocean dives but I'm not a fan of group lessons and didn't feel like the concepts where internalized on my part.
 

wetb4igetinthewater

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@Samson

You are the third person for whom I have heard that the Vasalva technique doesn't work. Have you tried different techniques yet? Maybe spend some time in a pool with just a mask and snorke?
 
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Samson

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@Samson

You are the third person for whom I have heard that the Vasalva technique doesn't work. Have you tried different techniques yet? Maybe spend some time in a pool with just a mask and snorke?
I tried Tonybee but I did not hear any distinct pops or clicks or my ears opening. I felt some release in my right ear but only if I kept at it repeatedly meaning minutes on end.
 

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