One of the main issue that arises when people are learning to freedive is that they can’t equalize their ears properly, meaning they can’t make their ears “pop.” Equalization has to happen before the feeling of pain in the ears or even sinuses. They might have felt the need to make their ears pop on an airplane or even swimming, but haven’t mastered the technique needed to make their underwater journey more comfortable, more pleasurable and safer.
Pressure equalization is serious stuff! If it ‘s not done right, you risk rupturing your eardrums which can lead to a complete loss of hearing or cause sinuses to squeeze which can permanently damage the skull. There are two popular methods to equalizing your ears when freediving in such beautiful destinations like Pompano Beach, Florida. The first technique is named after Antonio Valsalva who was the first to record the pressurization of the middle ears in the 1700’s.
Valsalva Equalizing ManeuverThis equalizing technique is done by exhaling against closed lips and a pinched nose, forcing air from the lungs into the middle ear if the Eustachian tube is open. It’s an effective method for freedivers diving at about 25-30 meters but not in greater depths, since there isn’t enough air left in the lungs to equalize the pressure in the ears and sinuses. Also, note that this technique robs you of oxygen.
Here’s how to perform the Valsalva Method:
- Pinch your nose with your thumb and index finger
- Exhale forcefully through your nose as if it was open
- You’ll hear a “clank” (sharp) sound coming for your ears
- Repeat underwater as needed
Frenzel Equalizing Maneuver
The goal with this equalizing technique is to close off the vocal chords, as though you’re lifting a hefty weight. The Frenzel technique is named after Herman Frenzel, a Luftwaffe commander who taught his method to dive-bomber pilots during World War II. It’s the preferred equalizing technique for freedivers because it’s the most efficient and energy-conserving method, taking a diver down up to 45 meters.
Here’s how to perform the Frenzel Method:
- Pinch nose with mouth closed
- Close off the epiglottis (that flap of cartilage at the root of the tongue)
- Seal mouth further with a T-Lock (shut mouth along gum line just behind/above teeth, as if you’re pronouncing the letter T)
- Move soft palate to neutral position
- Use tongue as piston and push air toward the back of your throat
Generally, the Valsalva equalizing maneuver tenses up the entire body. You’ll know if you’re performing it correctly if you feel a movement on your belly. For the Frenzel method, look for movement in the throat or Adam’s apple while also feeling your belly.