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 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.
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.
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 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!
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!
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 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
side – 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!