Is Equalizing for Snorkelers?
snorkeler diving down to photograph coral reef

Do Snorkelers Need to Equalize Too? 

OMG YES!

Ok, to be more clear, if you intend to do any sort of duck diving—even if it’s jus
t to a meter or two in your local swimming pool—you need to equalize your ears. If you are a floater and enjoy the view from the surface then you don’t need to equalize. However, if you intend to pop (pun intended) down to the reef for a closer look then you absolutely need to equalize your ears. Here’s why. 

snorkeler diving down to photograph coral reef

Physiology

As we start our descent underwater the pressure from the water builds as we go deeper and deeper. If we do not equalize the dead air space of the middle ear which sits between the eardrum and our eustachian tube we can actually rupture our eardrum. The eardrum is is basically a thin membrane that separates the outside world from the middle and inner ear. Without equaling, the  pressure on our eardrum becomes more than it can handle and it eventually breaks. Basically we want to avoid this at all costs because ruptured eardrum = ruined snorkel holiday. Lucky for us equalizing our ears while snorkeling is very easy to do. 

Snorkeler diving down to explore coral head

How to Equalize 

Basically the easiest way to go about equalizing your ears is to plug your nose and then LIGHTLY try to blow air through it. In doing this you should feel a faint pop in your ears. This is just your eardrums flexing outward with the added pressure you have forced into your inner and middle ear, consider them equalized. Please don’t get in the habit of doing this as you go about your life on land when you don’t need to. For starters people will think there is something wrong with you and immediately stop inviting  you to their social events, and more importantly it can stress the delicate components within your ears. Also, if you don’t feel that FAINT pop then don’t continue by pressing harder. You could be congested or have some other sinus issue and if you continue to force it it could lead to ear damage. 

In terms of taking this underwater, the process is the same and we need to repeat it continuously as we descend. The general rule of thumb for equalizing is once every meter and STOP IF YOU FEEL ANY SORT OF PAIN. If you fail to equalize after the first meter, then don’t keep going or try to force it. The pressure can be too much for your eardrum and you’ll run the risk of doing damage to them if you force it. Ascend and try again. Essentially equalizing should be an easy thing to do requiring very little effort, and once again should never be forced if your ears aren’t equalizing. If your ears aren’t equalizing then you may have a sinus issue or be congested which will have an impact on our ability to equalize. 

snorkeler equalizing while diving to coral reef

The bottom line is we need to equalize if we intend to spend any amount of our snorkeling time at any depth past one meter. It’s very easy to do, and should be done at regular intervals as we descend. And if you hadn’t caught the hint, DON’T FORCE IT!

About Author

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Alex Lindbloom
Alex is a Snorkel Venture guide as well as one of the video and photo pros for the company. Prior to joining Snorkel Venture in 2018 Alex lived and worked all over the world as an underwater cameraman, including five years on a boat in Indonesia. Alex's images and videos have garnered many international awards and can be seen on NatGeo, Disvocery Channel, the UN Building, and various magazines.