Carl's Tips

Helping your Open Water Students with Equalising

Releasing the pain of descending

Helping your  open water students with  equalising

 Equalising should not be a pain; if taught and handled correctly  by both the student and the instructor teaching them. Such a relatively simple  process seems to be one of the ongoing issues facing scuba instructors all around the  world.

These basic guidelines will help relieve the pain of descending.

 Use a reference when allowed

During the first dives, by using VERY shallow water (shallow  enough to touch the bottom) or a line to start your descent with is very  important (When PADI standards allow it). This will allow them to really  control their descent which will really help with equalisation.


Use the gradient

The EarThe gradient of depth change is what increases you issues with  equalising. Swimming in a zigzag motion down steep gradients will help you  reduce the pressure change your divers are exposed to. Next time if you have  equalising issues with one of your students, swim up the sloping reef until the  students signals OK to their ears, then make the group swim along the reef at  the same depth contour. Doing this will make your students chillax and when  this happens the neck muscles will loosen around the Eustachian tubes and a lot of the time the  students can more easily equalise. Now that you have your students over the  added stress of the descent, slowly go down the contour using the zigzag  method. This has worked really well for me in the past.


Feet first Descents only!

Ensure that all your students descend in a feet first position.  This ensures that the Eustachian tubes are in their natural position and will
make equalising consistent and easier. If your students heads are face down,  the Eustachian tubes a bent which will impede the gas exchange through to the  inner ear.



Always use a reference with your students

Always use a reference with your students

Like I said previously, if your students are stressed they will  have a lot low chance of a successful descent. Fostering a relaxed  environment  is one of the key ingredients to running a successful descent. I have written a  great article called Dive One Blues – How to reduce stress in your students If  you are constantly having issue with your students equalising, then this may be  the underlying issue to your methods.



Feel rushed

Rushing your students will cause 2 main issues: firstly, they will  be tense which reduces their ability to successfully equalise as explained
before. Secondly, because they are pushed to go quicker they will easily omit  an equalisation causing issues.


Group control

Group control during the descent is extremely important. If your  descent is unorganised and unstructured your students will not be able to know  what to do when. Keep your descents simple. Always use the 5 point methods  (more on this soon with a blog about running descents in the Open Water Course  – watch this space!





Timing device

equalise and Descent


Be the first down the ling and ensuring that ALL your students can  easily see and signal you! VERY IMPORTANT. If you have great group control,  stoping or pausing a descent and helping your students through the process is  relatively easy!


Bad techniques

Sometimes they just aren’t doing what you tell them… Treat  equalising exactly the same as any basic skill you teach in the pool. Pin point
the critical attribute that just aren’t doing right and guide them through  adjusting the method.


There are several methods that will help your students;

The Valsalva manoeuvre

The Valsalva manoeuvre

The standard Valsalva manoeuvre
gently blowing your nose against a pinched nostril

The frenzal Manoeuvre
Swallowing and/or flexing the muscles around the Eustachian tube  and the  inner ear causing air to pass  through and equalising

Wiggling your jaw from side to
– This method can be used in conjunction with any of the other  methods. It massages the Eustachian Tubes which in turn will help them  equalise.

Point an ear to the surface
Instructing your students to point the unequalised ear to the surface will help  stretch the Eustachian tubes and sometime helps in letting the gas pass  through.


Not frequently enough

Sometime students have the miss-conception that they need to feel  the pain, then equalise. As we know, they need to equalise prior to feeling the  pain. So basically to stop this occurring = TELL THEM! Explain the correct  methods leading up to the ocean session in the pool, and classroom. This will  help them understand the correct methods.



Harder to push – DON’T

It is really important that we explain to our students that if  they feel resistance, don’t. If there is resistance and they continue to push
past that resistance it will cause bruising in the middle ear or ear drum or  possibly even worst. Make sure they know that when they feel the pain they  should stop descending, signal to you and their buddy, then ascend until they  don’t feel the resistance, and only then attempt to re-equalise. MAKE  SURE YOU READ THIS PARAGRAPH TWO TIMES TO MAKE SURE YOU READ IT RIGHT!



Get the student back in

If you need to get someone out of the water because they can’t  descent with the group, make sure you get the student back in to give it
another go one-on-one. This is very important the future of the student and  diving. You student will not feel as stressed about it, as the rest of the  group are not waiting for them, and you will be able to work on a more  individual basis with the diver to help trouble shoot the problem. I have used  this option a few times before and (Air supply permitting) I have continued  with the requirements of the dives and caught them up with their fellow  students.


Never pull or push someone through the water column while

When descending with a student with equalising issues, make sure  you are in front of the diver offering them support with their buoyancy with  one hand and signalling them with the other. Looking into their eyes will be an  even better signal them their hands. Make sure you NEVER push or pull anyone  through the water column. This will cause dangerous results!


Learn these and more Techniques from Carl Fallon (Platinum Course Director) during you PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC)

Carl Fallon