Vertical buoyancy control is perhaps the most critical dive skill. An inability to control your depth will magnify the risks and probability of a serious injury. Rapid sinking risks an ear injury, while rapid ascent risks decompression sickness or an arterial gas embolism.
These kinds of injuries can be minor, with 100% recovery, but they can also be seriously life altering. Divers Alert Network (DAN) accident statistics show that these two types of injuries account for more than 50% of all non-fatal diving accidents that get reported.
An ear injury due to the failure to equalize is an unavoidable and continuous risk on every dive you will ever make. I refer to this as Equalization Risk.
A diver can injure their ears during the initial descent (when pressure changes are greatest), or at any other time during the dive. Effective management of this risk requires that you develop keen ear-monitoring skills (situational awareness) and good equalization technique.
Over the course of my diving life (30+ years) I've experienced and witnessed many ear injuries, both in the ocean and during the confined water segment of the Open Water course, in pools where the bottom was less than 5m/15feet deep.
It's a painful experience for the unfortunate victim of an ear injury, with outcomes ranging from a mildly annoying weeklong feeling of fullness and dull hearing, through to punctured ear drums, bleeding ears, vertigo, vomiting, near drowning, and permanent damage.
PADI Open Water course materials highlight and emphasize the importance of full and proper equalization of your ears on descent and what to do in the event of a reverse block on ascent. At VSds, we think that every novice diver ought to have a full medical and physiological understanding of what's going on in your ears when you go underwater, and the various equalization techniques.
The following article is taken from the Divers Alert Network (DAN) website. We urge you to read it closely and practice the various techniques at home. And we urge you to check out DAN. Click on images to expand.