Deep diving may be done recreationally or to explore old ruins at the bottom of the ocean. Regardless of the purpose, deep diving is trickier and has greater risks involved as opposed to scuba diving in shallow water. To avoid the buildup of compressed gases in the body, divers have to make decompression stops as they return to the surface.
How deep can you dive without decompression stops? There are a number of factors that come into play: Previous Dives, Gas mixes used, Length of dive, to just name a few. All these impact the depth you can dive down to before you have to make a decompression stop.
Decompression simply defines the process of releasing pressure or compression. Scuba diving places you in a high-pressure environment, and as you go deeper, the water pressure increases.
In fact, the water pressure increases by 14.5 psi (unit to measure psi) after around every thirty feet. Atmospheric pressure at sea is around 14.7 psi. it doesn’t take a scientist to understand that the deeper you go, your body will have to deal with pressure which is two or three times greater than what you’re sued to. Sea creatures have flexible and lucid bodies, which help them deal with the water pressure, but our bodies are not designed the same way.
This is about to get a little scientific, but just stay with us: essentially, the compressed air that you breathe in is a combination of nitrogen and oxygen (much like the air you breathe in on land).
The more time you spend underwater, the more compressed nitrogen you take into your body. This is because the water is denser than air and the inhaled nitrogen takes longer to escape through our skin. The more the nitrogen content in your body, the more time it will take to escape your body and decompress.
As you ascend, the water pressure decreases, and the nitrogen finds it easier to escape from your body. However, if it escapes too fast, you become prone to decompression sickness. So how exactly do scuba divers decompress without exerting their bodies too much?
Divers decompress by slowly returning to the surface. As you ascend, the compressed nitrogen slowly releases from your body. If you ascend too fast, these gases will also escape fast and create bubbles. Nitrogen bubbles are likely to lead to decompression sickness.
Decompression sickness is characterized by joint pains, knee cramps and other body pains, but in the worst-case scenario, it can potentially lead to heart trouble. The buildup of nitrogen bubbles in your bloodstream can damage your blood vessels and rupture the flow of blood in your body. This may lead to heart attacks, heart failure and even paralysis.
Therefore it is essential to ascend slowly. Your dive computer can help you regulate your ascent rate to avoid the formation of nitrogen bubbles.
To avoid the problem of decompression sickness, divers make decompression stops during their ascent. These stops are an opportunity for any gas bubbles that have already formed to escape.
Decompression stops are necessary for deep divers. Not making these stops can be detrimental to a diver’s health.
Safety stops usually last around five minutes and are required for anyone diving to a depth of around 15 feet. They are more of a precautionary measure and even if you miss one, it is not likely to be harmful.
For divers going deeper than 15 feet, safety stops are a must. Once you’re done with your dive, as you ascend, you need to make a safety stop after around every five minutes.
Put simply, the Non-Decompression Limit, short NDL, is the depth at which you can dive and ascend from without making decompression stops. This limit varies, based on your diving history and the depth to which you’re going.
If you’ve dived earlier on in the day, your body is likely to have residual nitrogen. If you go for another dive, your tolerance for compressed nitrogen will be lower and decompression sickness is likely to occur in a shorter time period.
Staying underwater beyond the NDL means that a diver needs to make decompression stops while resurfacing to avoid the risk of decompression sickness. In fact, a diver should never exceed the NDL unless they have the appropriate training on how to make decompression stops.
The nitrogen levels in your body determine the NDL for a dive. If you’ve absorbed too much nitrogen during your dive, you cannot ascend without making decompression stops. This is because the more nitrogen there is in your system, the more likely it is to escape in the form of bubbles, which will lead to decompression sickness.
The nitrogen content in a diver’s body is dependent on a few things:
If you consistently use the same dive computer then it will take care of all these factors. It keeps your dive history with all relevant information and will take these into consideration when giving you guidance on safety and decompression stops.
Let’s look at the details of diving without making decompression stops. Pretty much all dives are decompression dives because in all cases, your body will dispel compressed gas as you return to the surface. The question remains, how deep can you dive without making any decompression stops?
Decompression stops are dependent on 2 variables:
This simply means that you can spend more time underwater at shallower depths than if you go deep diving. The compressed air will escape your system before you need to make a decompression stop. This doesn’t change the fact that you still need to return to the surface slowly to avoid any sudden buildup of gas bubbles.
Diving to depths of around 80 feet means you will have less time to spend at that depth because you need to save time and energy for your decompression stops on your way back up.
Here are some estimates of the depth and duration of dives you can make without making decompression stops. Keep in mind that these only consider the first dive of the day and the values will significantly change if you’ve already gone for a dive or two earlier on in the past 24 hours.
Crossing these time limits will mean that you need to make a decompression stop/s as you ascend. You will notice that as the depth increases, the time you can spend underwater significantly decreases.
If you do need to make decompression stops, you will also have to consider factors such as how much air you have left in your tank. This is because you will require air to breathe at your decompression stops as well so you can’t use it all up during your descent.
In order to deep dive, you need to have special certification and training to:
Diving to a depth of 18 meters or below is considered deep diving. The greatest depth you can go to without deep diving certification is around 40 meters.
In order to be a certified deep diver, you need to be older than fifteen years and at least have an Open Water Diver certification. The deep diving certification will equip you with knowledge of how to properly use your diving equipment, regulate your air supply and other information to have a safe dive.
Nitrox diving simply involves using a gas mix which has a greater oxygen content. It can help you increase your dive time, but in order to become a Nitrox diver, you need to have proper certification.
Deep diving can be an incredible experience because it lets you explore the depths of the ocean and all its mysteries. All you need to do is take the right precautionary measures to ensure that you avoid the risk of decompression sickness.
Scuba diving is an inclusive water activity and is suitable for people of all ages. However, as you grow older, there are certain health issues that are likely to slow down your diving activities.
Can scuba diving cause arthritis? It can contribute to arthritis if you suffer from it. One of the main health concerns aging divers face is arthritis. Whether you’re diving with a pre-existing condition or are at risk of getting arthritis, there are certain measures you can take to have a safe dive.
Arthritis is of many different types and while they have their own symptoms, the one thing they all share in common is the inflammation and pain they cause to your joints. There are complications in diving with arthritis. Here are the main problems to look out for:
Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by inflamed joints which lead to immobility and pain in your ankles, wrists and fingers. The blood flow in the body is altered which can even make it painful for the diver to take care of their dive equipment.
Scuba diving should be avoided, at least on days of increased inflammation. If the problem is temporary, you can get a medical exam and once your reports are clear, you’re ready to dive.
Osteoarthritis affects a patient’s bones and cartilage. It causes joint pain with intensity varying based on how serious your illness is. Divers with Osteoarthritis may face difficulties in performing simple tasks like opening their dive tank valve or pulling up their zipper.
You can find out from your physician if it’s safe for you scuba dive with your level of osteoarthritis. Tanks with bigger knobs and large-sized zippers are also available. It’s also important to remember that arthritis patients should never dive alone. They should be accompanied by a dive partner at all times to provide assistance in case there’s an emergency.
Keeping the necessary safety precautions in mind, scuba diving can actually benefit divers with osteoarthritis. The natural buoyancy of the human body in the water reduces the weight on your joints. It can actually be used as a means of seeking pain relief.
Swimming will strengthen your muscles, including joint muscles and ease the pain. Being in the water helps your body release endorphins which double as natural painkillers. Diving improves your blood circulation and can also potentially lower your blood pressure.
Decompression sickness refers to joint pains caused by the buildup of compressed nitrogen bubbles in a scuba divers body. The symptoms of decompression sickness often overlap those of osteoarthritis and doctors may find it difficult to make a diagnosis. It’s best to dive when the symptoms have subsided to avoid this confusion.
Diving with arthritis requires a few extra measures as opposed to a regular scuba dive. Here are the main sensitive points you need to look out for:
Whether it’s an early morning jog or yoga classes, keep your body active and your joints moving. This will help your body stay flexible.
The average volume for a scuba tank is 80 cubic feet. If you’re shallow diving, you can request a smaller tank which will put less pressure on your bank.
It’s important to note that a small tank is highly unadvisable for deep diving since you don’t know how much air you’ll need and running out can possibly kill you. If done right, scuba diving will help ease your back and joint pain.
Reynaud’s disease is common among arthritic patients and results in finger and arm spasms. The extremities of the body also become extremely cold if exposed to low temperatures. Divers with Reynaud’s can obtain a medical note allowing the use of gloves when scuba diving.
Either way, divers with Arthritis need to find a way to stay warm underwater. Water takes away the warmth from your body significantly faster than air. Hoods and full diving suits are recommended.
Most divers use flutter kicks to maneuver in the water. These can cause pain in the joints for arthritic patients and can also be very tiring.
Frog kicks are a better stroke for those patients. An added bonus is that you’re unlikely to kick up some sand because of your kicks.
Most experienced divers are capable of four or five dives a day. However, if you’re experiencing any pain, even two dives a day is more than enough. Get plenty of rest between dives as well to ensure you don’t get too exhausted once you get back in the water.
Check the dive conditions beforehand. If there’s a forecast of strong winds or water currents, skip your dive for that day. If you’ve scheduled a dive and suddenly don’t feel like you’re up for it, reschedule.
There is a belief that the disrupted blood flow in the body and other symptoms of the illness put an arthritic diver at a greater risk of decompression illness. However, the deeper you go in the water, the lesser joint pain you’re likely to experience. You can move your joints freely without exerting pressure or experiencing pain, and in fact, scuba diving can be a great form of exercise for arthritis patients.
Inflamed and stiff joints will make it difficult for you to handle your scuba gear and heavy equipment like the dive tank. Sudden waves of fatigue can also reduce your dive time and make you more susceptible to decompression sickness. Certain arthritis types are characterized by body spasms as well.
For these reasons, it is essential to obtain a doctor’s note signifying that you are well enough to finish your dive. Divers with mild to medium arthritis are fit to dive. In fact, it is even encouraged as the water activity can be a great way of easing joint pains.
Just remember not to overdo it. Diving too much can have the adverse effect. The fatigue will increase joint pain rather than diminish it. Even worse, if you have decompression illness, your doctor will find it difficult to gauge whether the pain is because of that or the arthritis.
If the necessary precautions have been taken into consideration and followed, scuba diving is a beneficial activity for arthritis patients. It’s a great way to attain pain relief and stay active to prevent the illness from worsening.
Just make sure that your physician has approved of your diving activities before you get started. Also ensure that arthritic divers are always accompanied by a diving buddy to help in case any equipment is stuck or there is an emergency.
Scuba diving equipment today looks a lot different than it has in the past. The scuba mask has been one of the most evolved pieces of scuba equipment. Many people may think that the air tanks and regulators are more important but without access to your eyes and nose, you would never get past the first atmosphere of pressure.
Protecting the eyes of a diver started with crazy full helmets that attached to dive suits. Before that, divers simply braved the elements. Many people would surface after diving with horrible red eyes. Can you imagine trying to keep your eyes open under the sea?
When the scuba mask, as we would recognize it hit the market, it was called a proto-mask. It was a simple piece of glass that used rubber to create a seal around the eyes and nose. By the early 1900’s we start to see the oval single lens scuba masks that feature a more traditional scuba diving look.
The problem with these oval masks was that there was no way to equalize the ears. The nostrils were not accessible from outside of the mask. These medium profile masks would have to be lifted; you would equalize your ears. After this you had to clear mask. Talk about a hassle, especially if you’re not the best at clearing your mask or if you have to equalize often.
If they didn’t choose to equalize their ears in the oval mask that way, they would wear nose clips to keep their nostrils closed the whole dive. The nose clips allowed divers in oval masks the ability to clear their Eustachian tubes without flooding their mask. The only problem was that the nose clips were very uncomfortable. If you couldn’t tolerate these, you had to figure something else out.
It took until 1952 that Cressi introduced a mask with a dedicated nose pocket. The Cressi Pinocchio mask made it possible to equalize when diving which was a major innovation to scuba masks and scuba diving itself. The mask is produced until this day and you can still purchase it at Amazon!
Around 1959 US Divers Catalogue released their first equalizer mask. They called this mask the Aqua-Pressure. It featured indentations in the rubber that allowed you to pinch your nose.
Even with the oval masks evolving to allow for equalizing the ears, there were still many problems for scuba divers. Oval masks had limited fields of vision because of the space required to house the nose within the lens. There was also a high volume of air, meaning when the mask flooded they were hard to clear.
Moving the nose outside of the lens solved these problems for the scuba divers. Not only did they minimize the volume of the mask, but they also solved the problems previously encountered with equalizing.
The evolution in materials also changed the shape of scuba masks. Silicone allowed for clearer sides and lower profile goggles. There were also introductions of things like prescription dive lenses or lens clips for prescription vision lenses.
A lot of people like the retro look of the oval scuba diving masks, and you may have seen one or two of them on your last dive trip. With these relics making a comeback, you may be wondering what the advantages of modern diving masks are?
Frequently equalizing the ears is one of the most important tenets of scuba diving. Not equalizing your ears can result in a rupture of the eardrum and even permanent hearing loss. It’s not surprising that the best advantage of the modern diving masks is the easy equalizing provided by the enclosed nostril space.
Every scuba diver has had to clear their mask at depth at least once in their lifetime. Especially if your no fog stopped working halfway through a dive. Having a low volume mask makes clearing your mask easier. New diving masks are low volume, and they are much easier to clear than the oval masks.
Finally, the field of view on modern scuba masks is much better. Being able to look down and have sight is excellent when descending. The peripheral vision is also a great benefit to divers. This can help with the enjoyment of your diving experience. Also, the increased field of vision reduces disorientation and motion sickness that can occur for people at depth.
Whether you are considering an oval diving mask for looks or fun, it may not be the most practical piece of diving equipment you will own. They are not user-friendly, as a modern diving mask. Equalizing in an oval mask will take a lot of practice. Finally, may find yourself quickly switching back to your modern diving mask.
When you’re deep diving, not only do you want to explore the bottom of the ocean some more, but it also takes time to return to the surface. Many people believe that making use of a Nitrox Tank when you dive can help you stay underwater for longer time periods. Others have this concept that Nitrox tanks are simply a means for you to use regular compressed air to increase bottom time.
Does Nitrox increase bottom time when scuba diving? Yes, Nitrox can increase bottom time when diving. However, it depends on a number of factors like depth, previous dives, etc. On average though you will be able to enjoy your underwater experience for a longer time for each dive.
When used correctly, Nitrox is a way to reduce decompression stress and help you spend some more time underwater. However, in order to use Nitrox you need to be trained and certified to avoid any mishaps. Here is everything you need to know about diving with nitrox.
Nitrox is the term used for any breathing gas which has an oxygen concentration of more than around 20%. The oxygen content is increased to reduce the nitrogen concentration to increase the time spent at the bottom. This process aims to emulate the nitrogen concentration on land so divers can breathe more comfortably underwater.
The gas ratios may vary. For divers, the oxygen content usually falls within a range of 28-40%. Most divers opt for around 32-36% oxygen. You should always verify the oxygen concentration with the help of a nitrox analyzer!
Here are the two most common types of Nitrox popular among recreational deep divers:
Nitrox tanks are great for scuba diving to a moderate depth. However, if used without following the proper instructions, they can be dangerous when deep diving.
This stems from the fact that even though oxygen is a basic requirement for divers, it can be toxic in high pressure situations (the deeper you dive, the more the water pressure increases). This can lead to seizures, visual disturbances, ringing sounds in the ears, nausea and dizziness.
These disturbances are the result of excess oxygen in your bloodstream. The oxygen that isn’t used up by your body dissolves in your blood or combines with your hemoglobin. This prevents the hemoglobin from carrying carbon dioxide to your lungs. The buildup of gases obstructs the flow of blood to the brain. This leads to the aforementioned side effects.
It’s important to note that oxygen overdose isn’t a frequent occurrence, but if it does occur, it can be extremely dangerous. The blockage in the flow of blood can cause muscle spasms and may make it difficult for you to maintain control over your body. In extreme situations, it can lead to drowning.
Divers trained on how to use Nitrox are equipped with the right knowledge of how to deal with oxygen pressure at lower depths.
When dealing with oxygen pressure underwater, there are two main factors to consider:
Both of these can be determined based on the oxygen pressure. This is known as the Partial Pressure of Oxygen or PPO2. The PPO2 value can be obtained using the following calculation:
PPO2= Fraction of Oxygen in the Tanks (FO2) * Pressure at Atmospheric Depth-Absolute (PATA)
Essentially, the deeper you go, the higher the value of the Partial Oxygen Pressure. The higher the PPO2, the less time a diver can spend at that depth.
On average, Nitrox Tanks with 32% oxygen can increase diver’s bottom time at depths of around 60-120 feet. However, this depth can vary based on the diver’s health, tolerance levels, water temperature and pressure.
Divers can withstand a PPO2 of around 1.6 for a maximum of forty-five minutes. Many divers believe that a lower PPO2 such as 1.4 is not as dangerous and can be withstood for longer time periods.
However, the amount of time spent underwater will have an impact on this value. A diver who spends more time at a lower PPO2 is likely to be affected the same way as a diver staying underwater at a higher PPO2 for a shorter time period.
Don’t get too freaked out by all these calculations and mathematical terms. Divers using Nitrox can make use of Nitrox tables or use a dive computer that is able to deal with Nitrox.
These Nitrox tables are similar to decompression tables in the sense that they define the amount of time a diver can spend at the bottom at the given oxygen concentration. Divers can also check their oxygen exposure for that particular dive.
For regular deep divers, Nitrox dive computers are a more convenient option than nitrox tables since they automatically display all the required details without you having to read through or calculate anything. However, it’s always a good idea to have a waterproof version of the Nitrox tables in case your dive computer malfunctions mid-dive.
For many scuba divers, especially those who don’t live by the sea, every dive is important. For divers who are on a scuba vacation, they want all their dives to last as long as possible. You don’t want to be close to seeing a 100-year-old turtle, only to find that you’ve reached your decompression limit and need to return to the surface.
Nitrox tanks add another cost to your diving experience, but they lower the nitrogen levels which are the main contributing factor to decompression sickness.
Nitrox is ideal for recreational deep divers, but are not preferred for commercial use. For military and other commercial usage, blends such as Trimix and Heliox are used.
Diving with Nitrox tanks has benefits such as increased dive time, less exhaustion and effort during and after the dive, and a lower intake of nitrogen. However, nitrox diving has more risks associated with it than diving with compressed air.
This is why divers need to be certified to use Nitrox because they will learn how to manage oxygen exposure, keep an eye on the tank level, understand how to read dive tables and learn how to configure their dive computer to obtain reading for their Nitrox tank.
With the right precautionary measures, divers can have a better diving experience with nitrox without the dangers of breathing difficulties, nausea and other side effects associated with excessively compressed nitrox in the bloodstream.
Snorkeling is a fun and easy water activity, which is suitable for people of almost all ages. In order to have a great experience, you need to make sure that you get the right snorkeling gear and that it fits right. Here is everything you need to know about your snorkeling equipment including how to use it properly.
Should a Snorkel be on the left of the right side of the mask? Technically, it doesn’t make a difference. For scuba diving it has to be on the left as the regulator comes over your right shoulder. For snorkeling it wouldn’t matter but pretty much all people have the snorkel on the left
In basic terms, a snorkel is a tube that helps you breathe when you’re under the water surface. It may either come separately or be attached to your snorkel mask. One end of the snorkel tube fixes into your mouth, and the other end allows exhaled air to flow out of the top. Over time, many different snorkel designs have come up to help snorkelers breathe comfortably in the water.
It’s essential that you fit your snorkel properly in order to be able to breathe comfortably. A snorkel tube may be on the left or right side of your face, depending on the way it has been manufactured and which side is more comfortable for you. This prevents the snorkel from coming loose in the water or any water seeping into it, making you cough, choke and in the worst-case scenario, losing control in the water.
The first step is to get the right snorkel before you move on to fitting it properly.
In order to have an enjoyable experience, it is imperative that you select the right type of snorkel.
A basic snorkel is just a simple tube with a mouthpiece and no added features. It can be bent around a little, but it is not very flexible.
This type of snorkel features a flexible tube and is likely to have additional features, such as a purge valve. The purge valve collects any water that enters the tube in a space below the mouthpiece and allows the water to be drained from here rather than having to blow it out from the top of the tube.
The flexible body of the tube makes it much more comfortable to use and is easier to rotate and move around if it starts pulling at the mouthpiece. The tube also drops down when it’s not in use rather than staying in front of your face.
This snorkel has a flexible tube, a purge valve and a splash guard. A semi-dry snorkel prevents water from splashing into your snorkel tube, but it won’t be of much use if your face is completely submerged in the water or there’s a sudden high wave.
Dry snorkels are completely sealed from the top to prevent any water from penetrating into it. However, it’s important to get the right type to avoid purchasing a tube, which blocks out air as well.
Dry snorkels feature a valve that prevents air and water from seeping in and keeps the inside dry and comfortable for breathing. However, they don’t prevent water seepage in the mask and are often used simultaneously with a splash guard.
Once under the water, dry snorkels create drag, which may cause water to enter the tube. They are also not suitable for diving deeper under the surface because of the excessive inflow of water.
The full-face mask combines the tube with the mask with no separate elements. The advantage of a full face snorkel mask is that you also don’t have a mouthpiece from a snorkel. You can breathe through your mouth or nose which makes it a lot more comfortable for many snorkelers to use.
When getting a snorkel, it’s not just about wearing it properly, but it’s also about buying/ renting the right equipment. Make sure you look at the specifications of your snorkeling gear.
When given the option, always choose a silicon mouthpiece over a plastic one. It is safer, more comfortable and flexible. Some snorkels come with the option of getting a detachable mouthpiece, which is great because if you need a new one, you won’t need to replace the entire snorkel.
The diameter of the tube will be different for people of different sizes. This is because the size difference means that they have different lung capacities. A smaller-sized person using a tube with a large diameter will find it difficult to breathe hard enough to allow the exhaled air to escape from the tube. There are separate snorkels for children.
A snorkel is not a hundred percent necessary for scuba snorkelers. Many snorkelers are simply trained to use one from the start. Let’s weigh in on the pros and cons of using a snorkel for scuba diving:
The snorkel allows you to swim on the water surface without having to waste air from your tank. However, once you’re completely submerged, the snorkel gets pulled by the water current, which can cause water to seep into your mask. It can also get caught in seaweed and wrecks underwater.
Scuba diving rarely involves staying at the water surface for too long, which is why many snorkelers feel that it isn’t necessary to use a snorkel when scuba diving. Once you’re deep into the water, it’s just an added burden which you have to look after so that it doesn’t get stuck anywhere.
For many snorkelers, having a snorkel on gives an additional feeling of security. It allows snorkelers to safely breathe under the water surface without having to raise their head above. If a diver experiences sudden shortness of breath, they can stop and breathe through the snorkel tube and avoid inhaling the salty water. It’s also useful if you’re waiting for your dive boat to reach you and you’re just paddling and floating at the water surface.
Many snorkelers feel more comfortable if they have a snorkel tube with them. However, it is advisable to have a lightweight tube without too many fancy features. It can come in handy in cases of emergency.
The lightweight tubes are less costly than the more advanced tubes, they are foldable and easy to carry and they create less drag (the force of the water that pulls the snorkel away from the diver).
Once you have the right gear, it’s only a matter of properly attaching it. Your snorkel tube will have two ends: the mouthpiece and the open end of the tube.
The mouthpiece will have an indent, which will mark the area that sits over your teeth. Make sure you fix it on properly so that it doesn’t come loose once you’re in the water.
The other end of the tube will be above the water surface to allow the exhaled air to pass out. In case you’re using a dry snorkel, this end of the tube can also be submerged in the water.
Often, snorkelers have asked the question of whether the snorkel tube should be on the right or left side.
It doesn’t really matter which side you choose. Different snorkelers are comfortable with different sides. You can test out each side to see which one you prefer.
However, there are many snorkelers who only use the snorkel on the left side for two reasons:
Despite both these factors, it is important that you should feel comfortable breathing in the water, irrespective of which side the tube is on.
Snorkels may be manufactured for use on the right or left side. The most common ones are usually designed to be worn on the left. However, despite the design, you can still wear the tube on whichever side you’re comfortable with when snorkeling.
Unlike snorkeling where you can attach the snorkel based on your personal preference, the same rule does not apply for scuba diving. The regulator used when scuba diving is always on the right, which means that you have to place the snorkel tube on the left side of your scuba mask.
This is also why most snorkelers have the snorkel on the left side. If you go to get training for snorkeling then your teacher will most likely have you put the snorkel on the left. Similar if you buy a snorkel kit you will end up with the snorkel by default being attached to the left side of the mask.
Once you have the right snorkel gear and are comfortable using it, it’s time to get into the water. It’s important not to panic because this will make it uncomfortable for you to breathe through the snorkel tube. Just stay calm and have a good time.
It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health. This article aims to discuss the limitations if any people who smoke may face if they scuba dive. Prolonged smoking reduces a person’s lung capacity and they are likely to be at a greater risk of drowning as compared to the average, non-smoking diver. It’s difficult to quit smoking, but if you’re planning on taking up scuba diving or are already a diver, it’s a good idea to be aware of the risks involved.
Can you scuba dive if you smoke? Yes, you can. However, there are certain risks. Your lung capacity is impacted by smoking and you have various risk factors when diving. Always consult a medical professional first if you smoke and want to dive.
Smoking affects your entire body. Chronic smoking can lead to problems like strokes, gum infections, lung and heart disease, hip fractures, ruptured and hardened arteries. They can also lead to life-threatening illnesses like lung, neck, stomach, head, blood and bone cancer.
While these are some of the more serious effects of smoking, there are also some side effects that even affect smokers who don’t smoke frequently. These include: chronic coughs, high mucus production, and poor physical performance.
Excessive smoking can also cause airway hyper responsiveness (AHR), which is characterized by increased sensitivity of airways because of constricted breathing capacity. It tightens the airways in a person’s body, and especially during scuba diving, the compressed air inhalation can constrict a diver’s breathing. In fact, research suggests that smokers are at a greater risk of running out of breath underwater than asthma patients.
When performing activities that require a lot of physical effort, such as scuba diving, your body requires a greater amount of oxygen. Smokers can’t absorb the same amount of oxygen as a non-smoker due to their decreased lung capacity, which makes it difficult for them to handle high-pressure situations, such as surviving underwater.
Some smokers also fall victim to chronic obstructive lung diseases and the thinning of blood vessels. The narrow blood vessels can’t wash out all the compressed gas that builds up in a diver’s body, making them susceptible to decompression sickness.
The heart and lung functions help a person cope with physically stressful situations. They are also responsible for helping the body dispel unwanted or excess gases.
Smokers’ bodies are unable to drain all the excess gases when they’re underwater, making them more prone to decompression sickness. Decompression sickness is characterized by the buildup of nitrogen bubbles in the body, which may burst and cause joint pains. Other risks for smokers who scuba dive include:
Smokers are not as physically fit as non-smokers and are more likely to experience respiratory problems if they exert extra effort during exercise and other physical activities. Due to decreased lung capacity, they are likely to get tired much faster and may not be able to stay underwater for too long.
The risk of decompression sickness increases as a person ages. This risk is greater and arrives faster for smokers.
Smokers have a high level of carbon monoxide absorbed in their hemoglobin, which increases the amount of acid in the body, making it prone to acid reflux and being unable to exercise or perform strenuous physical activities for long periods of time.
Due to the high carbon monoxide levels in the hemoglobin, smokers’ blood contains less oxygen and causes them to have a higher red blood cell count. Release of excess gas becomes difficult for the body, putting the diver at risk of decompression sickness.
The recovery time for people who quit smoking depends on the time period and intensity of their smoking habits. Over time, the health problems and risks decrease, and in some cases completely disappear. In fact, smokers in the recovery phase can make use of dive tables and scuba dive comfortably.
For divers in the withdrawal stage, they are likely to experience problems like bloating and emotional distress. Smokers are likely to burn more calories. When they quit, they might see an increase in their weight due to reduced levels of calories being burnt.
They may also replace the nicotine cravings with excess food and drink, which can also cause weight gain. Taking up exercise can help ease the emotional and physical side effects of quitting. In fact, scuba diving can also be good for them, both in terms of providing proper exercise and a way for them to calm their nerves.
For those experiencing high levels of discomfort due to quitting, they can consult their doctor and temporarily make use of medicationfor relief. This stage might be difficult, but is especially important for those who are serious about their interest in deep diving.
For smokers who still wish to dive, it is ideal for them to undergo health exams and find out from a medical practitioner whether they’re fit to dive or not.
They should also be accompanied by a dive buddy in case of emergencies like panic attacks and a shortness of breath where they may need to ascend to the surface immediately. They should also avoid deep diving since the deeper you go, the greater the water pressure and risk of decompression sickness.
Since chronic smokers have a lower lung capacity, they are more likely to experience breathing inhibition and buildup of gas bubbles in the water as compared to non-smokers. Decompression sickness generally only leads to joint pains but in the worst case scenario, it can even lead to drowning.
In short, people who smoke can scuba dive. In fact, the side effects and problems discussed above refer to frequent and chain smokers and are not directed towards people who may smoke a cigarette once or twice a year.
There are also many diving instructors and pro divers who smoke. In such cases, it is best for them to practice conservative forms of deep diving. This includes making decompression stops before the depths recommended for the average diver.
For smokers who quit, they may notice improved physical performance and the ability to dive at deeper depths without facing problems like panic attacks and shortness of breath. From here on, it’s a personal choice as to whether smokers choose to dive or not.
Scuba diving is an inclusive activity which can be taken up by just about anyone. However, there are certain requirements you need to fulfill before you can start diving. One of those requirements is knowing how to swim.
Can you Scuba Dive without knowing how to Swim? Technically, yes. However, to get certified you need to be able to swim. So, while you can technically dive without knowing to swim you won’t get a certification.
Many people wonder if it’s absolutely necessary to be able to swim in order to scuba dive because technically the purpose of swimming is to keep you afloat and when you scuba dive you purposely go deep into the water. Some people also raise the fact that the human body has natural buoyancy which already lowers a potential risk of drowning. Well, let’s dive in and find out just how important knowing how to swim is for scuba diving.
The most important reason is safety. Scuba diving is a risky sport, even for trained professionals because you’re entering an environment where you can’t move around naturally like you do above the surface. In fact, for those diving recreationally when they travel, some insurance companies place a restriction on diving below thirty meters and cave diving.
Knowing how to swim will make you more comfortable in the water and minimize the potential risk of drowning. Going underwater can already instill a slight fear in anyone, you don’t want to add to the distress by not knowing how to swim.
For many divers, once you get lost in exploring the ocean, you don’t want to go back. Knowing how to swim can help you maximize your diving time. First time and novice divers are likely to use up air faster due to their lack of experience and nervousness. Knowing how to swim helps you regulate your breathing and maintain how much air you use so that you can spend more time underwater.
Note: The ability to swim is not the only factor which governs dive time. Other factors such as the depth, your physical strength and stress levels also play a role in this. There may also be gender differences in metabolic rates which can affect the amount of time you spend underwater (women are likely to be able to breathe underwater for longer than men).
You don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer in order to scuba dive. Some basic strokes and the ability to swim for a short distance without running out of breath will be sufficient.
If you can swim a distance of around 200 meters comfortably, you’re good to go. There’s no rocket science behind swimming: all you need is a little confidence, motivation and you’ll be able to pick up swimming techniques really fast.
If you have a beach vacation coming up and want to explore the ocean, it’s a good idea to plan in advance and sign up for swim classes. Apart from helping you dive, learning how to swim is an enjoyable experience and a great form of exercise.
If you’re learning how to swim just so that you can scuba dive, you don’t need to know every stroke in the book. Now we’re not saying you should just be able to dog paddle. Start out by just trying to stay afloat and progress towards learning a proper stroke.
Professionals recommend learning the breaststroke since it is the fastest to learn, the easiest and requires a pretty low amount of energy. If you’re learning how to swim so that you can scuba dive, let your instructor know this. Fill them in on your requirements: being able to swim a distance of 200 meters and staying afloat for around ten minutes.
It’s easy enough to stay afloat. Most swim instructors will start off by getting you to stay above the surface using only your hands. Once you gain a little more confidence in the water, you can move on to using your legs to stay afloat.
If you’re a little nervous to begin with, don’t worry. Your instructor will provide you with a floatation device till you can swim properly on your own.
The expense of your swim lessons depends on whether you’re learning in a communal group or have made arrangements for a private instructor. Group lessons are usually very affordable and you can even take them at your local YMCA. Private lessons are more expensive but have the advantage that the teacher is completely focused on you.
If you’re really invested in learning how to swim so that you can scuba dive and have the room in your budget, you can go on a swimming vacation. They can cost a whopping USD 500 or more which includes the swim lessons and accommodation.
Try finding a swimming buddy to share the expense with (and to make it more fun for you). Obviously, this isn’t a feasible option for everyone, but if you feel like treating yourself and can afford to then go ahead.
You can even get swimming lessons at the same place where you plan to go scuba diving. Many locations that are suited for scuba diving have courses to learn how to swim. You can learn to swim and scuba dive at a single vacation and be set for future trips!
Scuba diving doesn’t involve an extensive amount of swimming. The main part is swimming when you go deeper, and since this part is done with the help of fins, it’s much easier. At this stage, you’ll be swimming so slowly, you’ll be preserving air anyway.
The other step where you’ll be required to know how to swim is when you swim from your boat to the buoy which marks the area you can begin your descent from. You need to know how to swim for this and to swim back to your boat once you return to the surface. Since these distances are usually pretty short, you just need to be able to stay afloat and maneuver in the water for a few feet.
You can dive without knowing how to swim and it is safe. However, you will usually not come up right at the exact spot you have to be in order to get out of the water so being able to swim is a safety measure for scuba divers.
It’s not only to keep you safe but also allow you to feel more comfortable in the water. Knowing how to swim will lower your anxiety in the water and you can enjoy your underwater surroundings more.
If you don’t want to or are unable to learn how to swim, there are still some options open for you to be able to see the underwater views.
Tropical resorts globally such as those in the Caribbean offer glass boat tours. This basically involves sailing in a boat with a glass bottom which lets you look down into the ocean. It doesn’t come anywhere near the actual experience of scuba diving, but you’ll still get a good view of the coral reefs and fish.
Submarines still provide an experience which is somewhat close to actually scuba diving. it’s a great way to explore the depths of the ocean without actually having to swim or having a scuba mask on.
These options are great for people who are unable to scuba dive because of physical impairments or other health concerns. They’re also a great way to help people with water phobias get over their fears. Boats also offer people who have suffocation anxiety experience the wonders of the ocean.
Even if you don’t swim, it’s possible to go for a one-day dive. The PADI institute has a Discover Scuba lesson for non-swimmers.
This scuba experience will allow you to dive in shallow waters under the supervision of a dive instructor. This is because when you scuba dive, you have proper equipment including a tank which helps you breathe and fins which help you move.
This is equipment that you normally don’t have when you’re just out for a regular swim. However, it’s important to remember that even with the right gear it’s important for you to be physically fit.
You can sign up for introductory sessions at your resort where you can learn how to get used to being in the water and techniques to move around and maintain a level of control over your body while you’re under the surface.
Scuba diving requires a fair amount of physical effort. The more fit you are the more fun and prolonged your diving experience will be.
You don’t have to be a fitness guru, just healthy enough to get through the dive without experiencing difficulty in going down, moving around in the water and returning to the surface.
Some people get nervous at the idea of being completely submerged in the water. Especially if you don’t know how to swim, this fear is likely to take over.
This is where your dive instructor comes in. These programs that allow non-swimmers to scuba dive generally don’t go very deep into the water. The average depth is around 10-12 meters. Even at these depths you’ll still get to experience the true magic of the ocean.
Your instructor is there to help you get comfortable with your dive equipment, and once you’re ready to get into the water, they’ll check to see that everything is secured properly. You will also have a flotation device as an additional security measure. So you really don’t have anything to be worried about.
Once you’re in the water, just make sure that you stay close to your dive instructor and group. You will initially take some time to get used to breathing underwater, but once you’ve been in the water for a few minutes, your nerves will calm themselves. Just don’t forget to breathe and you’ll have a great dive.
Coral reefs can grow close to the surface since they thrive in the sunlight. Therefore, places with coral reefs are ideal for novice divers.
Even close to the surface you’ll get to see plenty of sea creatures flitting around you. Here are some places which cater to divers of all sorts including those who are just getting the hang of being in the water:
The simple answer is no, you can’t get scuba certified without knowing how to swim. Even basic courses such as PADI’s Open Water Diver Course last for around four days and the ability to swim is a key requirement.
It’s definitely worth the effort to learn how to swim in order to scuba dive. You’ll be amazed at the incredible things you will get to see underwater: from vibrant corals and exotic fish to ancient shipwrecks and mysterious caves. Go with a group of diving buddies and share the fun together.
If you want to get a proper scuba certification, you will need to know how to swim, but if you just want a once in a lifetime experience of life in the ocean, you can go for shallow diving or even snorkeling and still get to see plenty of sea creatures in the gleaming waters. All you need is a little motivation and you’re ready to experience something magical.
Scuba diving is great, and on its own it’s a harmless activity. Just avoid touching the coral or coming direct contact with any sea creatures. Such actions disturb the ecosystem of the ocean and have led to the destruction of entire coral reefs, displacing many sea creatures that relied on them. Being a little careful will go a long way in protecting the gems of the ocean.
Scuba diving is an inclusive sport that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. However, physically fit and free from any medical conditions is a basic requirement for scuba diving.
Can you scuba dive if you have asthma? You can if your asthma is not very severe. You also have to consult a medical professional who can help you find out whether it’s safe to dive. Asthma does negatively impact your breathing capabilities which can in the worst case be dangerous when diving.
There are certain medical conditions where you can still scuba dive but the risk of injury or drowning is much higher. Whether or not you can dive while you have asthma is a long-standing debate so let’s break it down.
Asthma patients have narrowed breathing tubes and may suffer from shortened breath and a feeling of suffocation which may be triggered by mild illnesses like a cold, certain allergies or being in confined spaces. In extreme cases, patients may suffer from asthma attacks which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.
Scuba divers have to deal with a reduced breathing capacity because of using compressed air and a regulator for breathing as well as dealing with internal resistance due to increased density underwater. This is much worse for people with asthma who already have a low breathing capacity which just worsens underwater. Because of the narrow breathing passage, gases may become trapped in the diver’s body and will eventually expand and damage their lungs.
Experts also point out that it is not possible to stop and catch your breath underwater if you suddenly find yourself gasping for air. Sudden shortness of breath, distress and exhaustion can trigger an asthma attack underwater which may cause a person to drown. In fact, there have been divers with asthma who have died underwater, but there isn’t enough evidence to support the fact that this was the main cause of death.
Decompression sickness is something all divers have to be wary of (it is characterized by the expansion of gas bubbles inside the body due to inhalation of highly pressurized gas which can cause joint pains, cramps etc.), but asthma patients tend to face a higher risk of suffering from it.
Pollen from underwater plants can trigger asthma attacks in patients with allergies. A sudden shortness of breath can be life-threatening for a diver with asthma.
While a majority of doctors strictly advise against diving with asthma, there is another group which suggests that asthma patients can scuba dive with certain restrictions:
· Asthma should be mild enough for the diver to not require a bronchodilator in less than forty-eight hours.
· The patient’s asthma must not be the kind which is triggered due to exercise, flu or emotional distress.
In certain countries, all divers must undergo a lung test to ensure that they are free from problems like asthma in order to scuba dive. This is to avoid registering divers who lie about their medical conditions.
Asthma varies in severity and there are four basic levels of asthma:
For patients falling in any of the first three categories, scuba diving is possible provided that they follow recommended guidelines and restrictions.
Before considering diving with asthma, patients must address 2 questions:
For certain patients, their asthma is treatable and curable to some extent. A lung function test combined with a fitness test (ability to exercise without experiencing shortness of breath) needs to be conducted to ensure that the asthma patient is fit to scuba dive.
Scuba divers with asthma must follow certain precautionary measures to avoid sudden asthma attacks and the risk of drowning.
They must undergo a complete physical exam accompanied by a spirometry test. At rest and with a certain amount of exercise, an asthma patient’s spirometry results must be normal. Abnormalities in the result will render the patient as being unfit to dive. The asthma should be mild to moderate and easily controlled by medication. If a diver has required an inhaler urgently a short time before their dive, it is advisable to avoid going underwater.
Even asthma patients who are fit to dive must read up on the risks associated with diving in their medical condition as these problems can be life-threatening. Frequent divers should also consult a professional from time to time to ensure that there haven’t been any new developments which may prevent them from diving. In fact, it is recommended that asthma patients should use an inhaler at least half an hour before their dive as a security measure to avoid the risk of suffocation once they dive.
While it is not ideal for patients with asthma to scuba dive, those who still wish to do so must be extremely careful. They should be accompanied by a dive buddy or professional who can assist them in case an emergency arises to avoid any disasters.
Divers must be honest about their medical condition and get tested to ensure that their spirometry results are normal. They should also avoid deep diving because this will increase the risk of decompression diving. Shallow recreational diving is a safer option.
At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice, but make sure you put your safety first.
If you’re someone who dives frequently or somewhat frequently you’ve had to work on your deep stops and the right calculations for your gradient factor. This is an evergreen concept, and with the advancement of science and technology, it is also constantly changing.
Let’s start off by straightening out what a decompression dive is. A decompression dive involves making a single or multiple stops underwater before reaching the surface. The science behind this is that when you’re underwater, you are breathing in compressed air so when you breathe out, you also release certain gases such as nitrogen which are absorbed into your bloodstream.
If this gas is in excess amounts, it starts to bubble out in front of you and may cause something known as decompression sickness. This is where the required decompression stops come in to lower the amount of these gases entering our system. These stops are known as Deco Stops (Decompression Stops).
When you start off with basic dives, you are generally taught a bit about dive tables which essentially act as a set of guidelines about the depths it is safe to dive to and the time period that can be spent there. This time period is known as the No-Decompression Limit (NDL). As long as you’re within the NDL there is no need for a deco stop.
Your dive computer can help you figure out the depths at which to take these decompression stops and for how long.
(Note: decompression dives are not advisable for the casual or recreational diver since they are only equipped with a single gas tank and may be at risk of running out.)
Before we begin, let’s just clear one thing, decompression stops and deep stops are not the same thing. The key thing to remember is that deep stops are pauses that are taken during the ascension to the surface, before any decompression stops. This stop prevents gaseous bubbles from forming in your bloodstream and allows you to rise to the surface at a slower pace.
The more advanced your dive computer, the higher are the chances of it taking deep stops into account during the calculation of its algorithms. If your computer doesn’t have this feature, you can manually calculate one as follows:
Deep Stop Depth= Maximum Depth/ 2
Deep Stop Duration= 30-60 seconds
The pivotal role of the deep stop is to control the release of compressed gases from your body to prevent them from releasing too quickly and causing decompression sickness. In a utopian world, the ascension rate would be very slow to ensure that the gas level in your tissues never exceeds the saturation point. Since this is not possible or ideal for the average diver, there are other methods that have been tested over the years:
It sounds pretty straightforward so far right? Well, it gets a bit more complicated moving forward. The tissues in our body are not all the same. Some are fast at absorbing and releasing gases, other take longer.
Your deep stop may not take the slower ones into account, and the residual gas bubbles in your body may cause problems at a later stage. Some advanced dive computers take into account the presence of different types of tissues in your body. This is where we start taking gradient factors into consideration.
Let’s start off with some basic concepts. If we look at scuba from the perspective of professional divers, all dives are inadvertently decompression dives. Once we’ve established this fact, we can alter our behavior accordingly, especially during the process of returning to the surface.
The depths you reach, the gases you inhale and the amount of time you spend at the bottom of the surface is different in every dive. The one common factor in all dives is the risk of inhaling too much of the compressed gas and facing the symptoms of decompression sickness.
It is imperative to plan your dives before making the plunge. If you’re the “safety first” kind, you may opt for a pre-set, previously tried and tested decompression algorithm. If you’re a little more experimental with your dives, you may have to generate an algorithm to suit your specific needs.
If you’re an expert diver, you’ve probably heard of Bühlmann before. His work involved developing a model based on the way compressed gases enter and leave the body based on the changes in pressure.
It is an inverse exponential model, which is used by dive computers to generate decompression tables and for individual dives, help in determining the NDL (No-Decompression Limit) and decompression depths and durations.
However, this model is based on the premise that by following the devised algorithm and ascending accordingly, your body will no longer form gas bubbles. Recent research suggests that regardless of the type of dive and the algorithms you follow, these bubbles are still likely to form. The latest decompression models include adjustments for the fact that these bubbles will be formed and aim to control their growth and spread in the body. These are known as Bubble Models.
This does not discount the feasibility of the Bühlmann model. Countless divers still make use of it and have a great and safe diving experience. The key here is to slightly tweak the Bühlmann model to take into account the saturation of bubbles based on the varying depth, otherwise known as a time-and-place curve.
The decompression algorithm in your dive computer tries to simulate what happens in your body under the water pressure. It takes into account the different tissues and the rates at which they soak up and release gases
(Important Note: these tissues are not the human tissues; they are a mathematical figment used for the sake of algorithmic calculations).
The standard saturation of these mathematical tissues is around 6 half-times. If a tissue has a saturation of around 640 it will take nearly 64 hours to reach your desired state. Each type of tissue has a maximum threshold for withstanding pressure, which once exceeded leads to gas formation.
This maximum pressure is the tissue’s M value. These M values are backed by the fact that they were successfully used by U.S. Navy all the way back in the 1960s.
However, these values were only done for sea-level, which did not take into account diversification. That being said, the M values still offer some level of accuracy underwater and if the M Value is 100% decompression stress is likely to occur.
Now getting back to the real matter at hand: gradient factors. Gradient factors fall in a range of 0-100% where 0 is a safe zone and 100 is the point where bubbling has reached a dangerous level. During scuba, the effective decompression level lies somewhere between these values and it varies based on different divers, locations, depth under the surface and time spent under the surface.
The general diver sets a high and a low Gradient Factor before diving in. The Low Gradient Factor signifies the depth at which the diver makes the first stop of decompression. The High Gradient Factor refers to how close you as a diver are to a 100% M Value when you’ve finally ascended to the surface.
Every diver has to set their own Low Gradient Factor to set a precedent for the decompression process. The gradient slope, which is the level of pressure build-up, is based on how comfortable and willing you are to be a bit experimental with the values. A common Low Gradient Factor, which has also been suggested by professionals as well is 30%. Consider this to be the point where theoretically, more gas is dispelled than absorbed into your bloodstream.
Dealing with the High Gradient Factor is a whole other ballgame. This is where your risk-taking characteristics come into play, as the closer you are to a 100% M Value, the deeper you are and the more pressure your body is experiencing. The general High Gradient Factor is 80% although some professionals recommend 70% as being the ideal figure.
In short, a Gradient Factor range of 30-70 is considered to be ideal without being too high risk.
Don’t take this range to be set in stone. The type of water and the depth of your dive can greatly impact these M Values. If it’s a deep dive of say 65 meters, then this range is ideal. But if it’s a relatively shallow dive of around 20 meters, this range is unnecessarily restricting. In fact, for much deeper dives, this range is too small! So as you can see, the depth of your dive is crucial in deciding the ideal Gradient Factor range.
Ideally, read up about other divers’ experiences, develop formulae based on your own dives and establish an optimum range that is perfect for your particular dive. Always bear in mind that no calculation is perfect and no one, not even a scientist can predict the exact outcome of your dive.
Just like we previously mentioned a line of saturation, the Gradient Factor forms a new line to keep you in control when you’re under the surface. It helps you manipulate your decompression algorithm and merge the Bühlmann and Bubble models to create a single algorithm that takes into account the level at which gases start decompressing and the depths at which you need to stop to prevent bubble formation.
The ideal gradient factor is one which stops bubbles from forming on your first deep stop and you’re not ascending too fast. It ensures that you don’t spend too much time on your stops and don’t run the risk of bubble formation build-up.
Decompression sickness is treatable but can lead to more serious health risks. By adopting deep stops and decompression stops, the likelihood of this happening is around 4/10,000, which makes these stops an essential part of deep diving.
It is always necessary to ensure that you know what your dive computer is capable of. You may unknowingly be using a dive computer with the ability to run different types of algorithms and not using all its available features.
It is best to do some research before you buy your dive computer (or if you’re a frequent diver, buy a new dive computer) as to what algorithm it follows and how you can gauge the gradient factor range based on your past experiences and those others. Collectively, the aim is to ensure that you avoid the risk of decompression sickness and have an enjoyable scuba diving experience without suffering and pain or injuries once you’re back on the surface again.
Scuba diving is a way for us to spend a few hours experiencing life underwater. But because we’re not sea creatures, we need to don special scuba diving gear and carry special equipment to survive underwater. Some of these items are absolutely essential for our survival under the surface, others might be there for some added safety.
Can you scuba dive with tubes in your ears? No, you cannot as long as those tubes are in your ears. They would allow water to get into your ears which most likely would lead to an ear infection.
You may have noticed that when you fly in an airplane, your ears pop after you land, and the entire time you’re in the air, there’s a blocked, buzzing feeling in your ears. This is because our ears are extremely sensitive to the environmental and pressure changes around us.
Similarly, being submerged in water opens you up to the risk of getting clogged ears, which may lead to infections like swimmer’s ear. If you end up contracting an infection, there are a few ways to deal with it.
One way, which is especially useful for children still in their growth stage is to insert tubes (or grommets) in the ear which prevent the ears from accumulating excess buildup. Once your ears are healed, they may either fall out on their own or you may need to get them extracted by your physician.
Sometimes ventilated ear plugs are referred to as ‘Tubes’. They allow air but not water to circulate through your ears.
These ear plugs for diving perform the following functions:
These tubes function by allowing the middle part of your ear to drain until they reach a normal fluid level. Infection, inflammation or swelling often lead to fluid buildup in the ear. The tubes are inserted in the tympanic membrane (also known as the eardrum) to prevent excess fluid buildup in the middle of your ear.
These tubes are a temporary implants and may either fall out on their own or are extracted by a professional. The incision made to insert this tube in the ear is very minor and heals soon after the tube is removed. If a small divot remains, check it over time: it may take longer to heal or you may need to consult a physician for signs of infection.
It is not advisable to dive with tubes in your ears as their ventilation holes allow water to get into the middle of the ear. This in turn can lead to infections.
Even once they’ve been removed, you can’t get back in the water immediately. A healing period of around 6 weeks or more is essential. Once this period is over, you need approval from your physician whether your ear is back to normal or not and if it’s safe to dive.
When you’re diving with tubes in your ears, you’re basically diving while you have an ear infection. The water pressure and the flow of water through the tube into your ear can worsen the infection, and in serious cases may also lead to deafness.
There is also a risk of the tubes getting jammed in your ear or getting damaged, which will impact your Eustachian tubes (the tubes which connect different areas within your ear). If you sustain any real damage to your Eustachian tubes, there is no going back. Your ears will be damaged for good.
Having tubes in your ears is not a hundred percent safe. For someone who frequently experiences ear infections, their (Eustachian) tubes may become damaged.
This will make it harder or impossible for divers to equalize. The premature loss of a tube can present many problems such as exposing you to the risk of serious middle ear infections and barotraumas ear (discomfort in the ear).
You may start experiencing problems like buzzing and roaring in your ears. In the worst case scenarios, this may even lead to a partial loss in hearing, muffled hearing and fluid discharge from the ear canal.
Grommets, also known as Tympanostomy tubes, are tiny ventilating tubes inserted in the ear as a treatment for ear infections. They are somewhat of a last resort for patients who can’t seem to stop the flow of fluid and blockage in their ears.
These tubes equalize pressure in your ears and prevent any buildup or blockage. They are generally a preferred treatment for children and they essentially allow your ears to function normally while your Eustachian tubes heal on their own.
Unlike regular tubes, these are a bit of a long term process of healing and may remain in your ears for 1-2 years based on how quickly your ears heal. It is relatively safe to dive with grommets after a certain time period.
After around 6 weeks of the grommets being inserted, you can consult with your doctor to find out if it is safe to dive. It is still however preferred that you wait out the entire period the grommets are in your ears before you get in the water again.
It is better to prevent ear infection in the first place to avoid the hassle and discomfort of dealing with tubes and grommets. You can take certain precautionary measures before and after each dive to avoid any pain later.
First off, make sure you “pop” your ears before you get in the water and after you get out. You can also use the following tips and tools to keep your ears protected in the water:
A basic remedy of alcohol and vinegar can do the job. The alcohol acts as an antiseptic and protects your ear from harmful bacteria, and the vinegar counteracts the drying effect of the alcohol.
A few drops of some mild, neutral oil of your preference can be used before and after your dive to clean out your ears and prevent any buildup.
If your ears have any waxy buildup, clean it out with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide or a commercial solvent. If this causes intense burning or itching, it might be a sign of an ear infection so make sure you consult your doctor.
An occasional wash with saline water can clean out your ears, but don’t use it too often or your ears will lose some of their equalizing properties.
You can get a hood to slip on top of your head while you dive. This will prevent water from getting into your ears.
If you want to feel more protected, get a scuba mask that will also cover your ears. This can be a particularly useful tool if you experience frequent ear infections. If your hair is coming in the way, chances are some water might still get in your ear. Use the “pop” technique to get rid of the excess water.
If your ears are really sensitive, ventilated ear plugs might be a good idea. They are specially designed for underwater use and equalize the pressure in your ears without allowing any water to get in.
Warning: Do NOT use regular ear plugs as they can clog the ventilation to your ears and cause ear squeeze due to water pressure.
Don’t step into air-conditioned spaces immediately after you dive (and even before). If you feel like there’s a wind blowing, cover your ears.
When you’re in the shower, you can press a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel against your blocked ear to open it up.
In order to keep diving and enjoying your dives, it is necessary to take care of certain precautionary measures. If despite all your care, you still contract an ear infection, stay out of the water and make use of tubes or grommets (depending on your age and the severity of your problem) till your ears return to normal.