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July 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 45, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Why You May Be Experiencing “Oxygen Ear”

from the July, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Ever felt like your ear is full of water long after you've finished a dive? It's more common than you might think. This blog post on Diver Alert Network's European website explains the condition of "oxygen ear:"

"Also known as middle-ear oxygen absorption syndrome, oxygen ear describes a gas volume imbalance in the middle ear after diving with gas that has a higher oxygen fraction than air, such as nitrox. The higher-oxygen-content gas fills the middle-ear space over the course of the dive."

"Post-dive, the tissues metabolize the oxygen, reducing the total gas volume below what it would be if the space were filled with air. If this loss in gas volume isn't equalized, relative negative pressure will develop. This is in effect a squeeze, which can present as ear fullness, mild discomfort and/or impaired hearing."

"This problem can be avoided easily with occasional equalization for several hours after diving. A person who is active, talking and/or laughing during this period, may have no need to actively equalize. On the other hand, a person who goes to bed immediately after diving might wake up several hours later with mild discomfort. Full resolution is best achieved using gentle equalization techniques."

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