Returning to Diving After Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

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Hello everyone!

I was hoping to ask for some advice as there are so many knowledgeable divers here! 😌 I’ve spoken to my ENT doctor as well, but I still have some concerns:

3 months ago, I got a middle ear infection in my left ear after swimming at an Aqua Park that led to otitis media with effusion. 😣 It was super painful but cleared up after a few weeks. Now, 3 months later, it’s resolved with some minor remaining symptoms of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction:

  • When I swallow, I hear a rolling sound in my ear
  • When I yawn or open my jaw, sometimes I hear crackling
  • **No pain**
  • I can equalize fully and with no difficulty
  • I was able to equalize successfully on an airplane ride without pain
  • I did some light free diving 1 month ago and I was able to equalize successfully and also with no pain. Upon returning to the surface, examination of my ear showed there was some irritation to my tympanic membrane and the the rolling sound when swallowing got louder, but it resolved in a few days.

My ENT has said that he wants to do a conservative treatment approach and does not think I require balloon dilation.

He has told me to try flying and scuba diving and if I can do both without issue successfully equalizing, I’m fine. He said as long as I can equalize and don’t feel pain, I can’t hurt myself.

I’m itching to return to diving but also scared that I might injure my ear and increase likelihood of barotrauma. Of course scuba diving demands a lot from our Eustachian tubes! Even when I freedived I didn’t feel any pain, but I resurfaced with an irritated tympanic membrane. I know barotrauma during scuba can sometimes happen when diving EVEN if you don’t feel pain, which is what I’m scared about!

Of course, I plan on descending slowly and equalizing frequently, stopping if I have any pain.

If anyone has any other advice about diving safely with some chronic Eustachian Tube Dysfunction symptoms I would really appreciate it!

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