When reading an article by Marty McCafferty in the Fall 2017 edition of Alert Diver, a situation was discussed that we felt would be good to share. The article, entitled An Unexpected Earplug dealt with the effect of excess earwax on an otherwise healthy diver.
In this article, an experienced diver with over 150 lifetime dives suddenly became ill after an otherwise uneventful dive except for some trouble clearing his right ear. He was given oxygen and transferred to the hospital. On the ride there, the vertigo and nausea he was experiencing lessened and by the time he reached the hospital he was able to sit up, his hearing however, continued to be muffled. After a number of tests, the doctor examined the divers ears. The left ear was normal, but the right ear had impacted cerumen (earwax) blocking the ear canal. Once the wax was removed, the eardrum was slightly reddened and his hearing returned to normal.
So, what happened?
In a nutshell, the earwax created plug which prevented the diver from fully equalizing his ears. This can happen to anyone! The body naturally produces earwax as a protection for the eardrum. However, some people produce more than others and this can lead to a buildup. During a dive, the excess wax is pushed toward the eardrum. This puts pressure on the eardrum and stops the ears from properly clearing. When an ear is not properly cleared it can cause vertigo, nausea, and other ear trauma.
In the above scenario, the diver's symptoms probably resolved because the air found a small hole through the wax which allowed his ears to equalize.
This uncomfortable situation can be prevented! Irrigating the ears before diving will help to remove any excess wax which will prevent a plug from happening. Ear Irrigating kits are available over the counter at your local pharmacy.
CAUTION: DO NOT OVERUSE!!! Irrigating too often can cause the ears to produce more wax and lead to the very problems we just discussed trying to prevent.
Sometimes life gets in the way of our plans and we are forced to change plans last minute whether we want to or not. Surgery is one of those things that can definitely change a diver's plans. When considering whether or not it is safe to dive after a surgery will depend on many factors. While some factors are specific to the surgery, many factors are generic and can be a good starting spot for you and your doctor to discuss when making this decision.
This is the last installment of the rules of diving series we have been following for the last few weeks. This one is a rule that everyone who has ever been around diving or had anything to do with diving; NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATH!!
This rule has to do with preventing lung expansion injuries. The idea behind this rule is safety. If a person holds their breath while diving and they ascend the air in their lungs will expand and cause injury or death. That being said, the rule was never intended to cause fear of breath control. If you hold your breath for a moment while underwater and you are not ascending the likelihood of experiencing a lung expansion injury is minimal. It is the continued practice of holding your breath doing so while moving, and holding your breath for long periods of time that cause the most problems.
There are many underwater photographers who hold their breath the moment they take the picture in order to make sure conditions are perfect. Other people have accidentally held their breath while posing for a quick underwater photo and been ok. Again, we do not advocate holding your breath while scuba diving as it is very dangerous and has the potential to be fatal. We are simply saying that if you find yourself in a situation where you think you may have held your breath on a dive for a brief moment, chances are you are going to be ok, but you should still follow the rule and make sure you breath continuously while diving.
This week we are looking in to a rule of diving that seems to have come from well meaning people who are concerned about the underwater environment being impacted negatively by divers.
NEVER MAKE CONTACT WITH THE BOTTOM
This rule is recited even more when people talk about bottoms that have living coral that would be disrupted or killed if contact is made with it. While best practice definitely would be to look and not touch, however that is not always possible. There are certain times when this is not possible, such as when there are strong currents or wildlife in the area that may be kicked by a neutrally buoyant diver. It is also far better to gently rest on the bottom when learning to use a new camera than to crash into coral or other marine life attempting to adjust settings and line up a shot.
The best rule of thumb if you are unsure whether the location you are in allows you to make contact with the bottom is to ask. Each area is unique in its marine flora and fauna and the local dive operations can provide the best instruction.
So while the best intentions are behind this rule, it is far better to adopt the stance of low/no impact diving over never make contact.
We are continuing our look into the "rules" of diving from the Oct 2017 Dive Training Magazine. The next few weeks will look at rules dictating how we dive. The first rules that we will look at is almost as old as diving itself.
NEVER DIVE ALONE. ALWAYS DIVE WITH A BUDDY!
This rule started when recreational diving was in its early days. It was necessary then to have help to put on your gear. From there, the crude equipment made it necessary to have another person there in case of emergency. These days we cannot imagine diving without a dive computer, BCD, or pressure gauge, but in the beginning, none of these devices were available as they had not yet been invented. Over the course of several decades, dive gear has become safer and easier to use. It has also become more self-sufficient and easier to manage alone. The invention and use of alternate air sources such as Spare Air, has even made it possible for a diver to handle an out of air emergency on their own. It is these advances that have allowed the idea of diving solo to gain momentum. Many dive agencies offer courses centered around solo diving. These courses are designed to increase the diver's independence and confidence in handling common diving situations which reduces their reliance on another person and the buddy system. However, despite these equipment advances and agency course changes, many people and places still agree that diving with a buddy is best.
If you decide you want to give solo diving a try, you must be willing to accept the responsibility for yourself should an emergency arise. You must also do your research. There are many places that do not allow solo diving and there are many parks that have rules that prohibit solo diving in park waterways. If you do find a location or guide that will allow solo diving, you may also have to show proof of your qualifications and experience with solo diving.
This just goes to show that there really are no RULES when it comes to diving, just guidelines and regulations that were created out of necessity or safety that have stuck with us through advances in technology and increased knowledge, for better or worse.
We are continuing our look into the rules of diving from the article by Cathryn Castle Garcia from Dive Training's Sept/Oct 2017 magazine.
This week we look at the age old advice of "Always turn the tank valve back a quarter or half turn once on". This rule has been around for a very long time and had good intentions in the beginning but it is now something that should not be followed.
Orginally, SCUBA tanks had valves that would sometimes stick open if the full pressure from the tank was allowed to flow through them. The "rule" continued even after valves were changed to no longer
Our exploration of the "rules" of diving continues. Remember, this is from the article by Catherine Castle Garcia in Sept / Oct 2017 Dive Training magazine.
The rule this week is "No Gloves Allowed". This one actually is a rule in many tropical areas, especially where there is a danger of damaging the coral if you grab it. If you are not wearing gloves, you are less likely to reach out and touch it! In some cases, there can be very stiff fines if divers are found wearing gloves while diving in these areas.
For these situations, it is understandable, we want to protect fragile environments. However, not all environments are fragile, and so gloves will do no harm. In addition, there are some medical conditions that are aggravated by temperature changes. Gloves are a necessity to avoid pain and even possible medical emergencies! Now, these divers can get a doctors release to wear gloves, but it can be a hindrance to do so. Also, if they forget the release, it could ruin a dive trip!
So, while we understand the reason for the rule, perhaps it could be a little less strict. On the other hand, we as divers can help by being more conscious of the environment we love to explore and look with our eyes, not with our hands!!
This week we will continue our series looking at some of the things that many divers believe to be "rules". We are utilizing the information found in the article of the same name by Cathryn Castle Garcia in the Sept / Oct 2017 edition of Dive training magazine.
The 2nd "rule" addressed in the article is "Never put your mask on your forehead".
The reason behind the origins of this rule is unclear. Somewhere, someone said that divers in distress put their masks on their forehead, so don't do it unless you are in distress.
There is no such rule! While it is true that divers in distress often panic and push their masks up from their faces, this is a symptom of panic and not a rule that lets people know they need help. If you are wondering if a diver is in distress, ask them! Also, if you are a diver in distress, signal the people on top by waving your arms above your head to get their attention. This is the accepted signal of a diver in distress. Better yet, carry some type of audible device such as a whistle, or a Dive Alert. Many divers put their masks on their foreheads just for convenience and are perfectly fine.
I do advise a word of caution about mask on the forehead though. If you are caught in choppy waters and are wearing it up there, a wave might just divest you of it! This could make for a very unhappy finish to your dive!
In this series, we will be taking a look at some of the things that divers have been taught as hard and fast rules. Now, while they may make sense, they are not necessarily rules in the truest sense. Many authors have covered these facts about diving, and we have covered some of them here in this tips area. However, the article "Challenging the "Rules" of Diving" by Cathryn Castle Garcia in the Sept / Oct 2017 edition of Dive Training inspired me to do this as a series of tips over the next few weeks. It will be divided into two section, 1) Rules related to how we treat equipment and 2) Rules related to how we dive.
The first weeks will deal with how we treat equipment.
Rule#1 - Always wear a snorkel.
This is a required accessory for scuba students and their instructors during training dives, but after that it can sometimes be a hindrance. If you are in an overhead environment, it could get snagged. If your are in a current, it could become a drag. However, it is very handy to have once you are on the surface. So, while it is not REQUIRED that you always wear a snorkel, it is highly recommended. If you reach the surface, and you are out of air, it would be handy. Or, if you surface and you want to conserve your air, it would come in handy at that time also. However, that does not mean you need to wear, it. Just carry it with you so you have it if you need it.
STC Dive Center
Once a month we will publish a new tip or topic. Please feel free to comment anytime.