How to screw up your ears while diving
A part of me knew that I probably shouldn’t have been diving that day, but it was just a tiny cold, barely a cold, my nose was just running slightly. I blamed it on the rain the other day. I’d gone out diving (after my diving course I just couldn’t stop), with Sammy as my guide this time, and when we were heading back to shore it started raining terribly. By the time we reached the dive shop we were all soaked and I was sitting there, filing out my log book and having lunch, in my wet clothes for a while, waiting for the rain to stop, or at least slow down a bit.
I should have known. But this day I was going to join in on a wreck dive, my first, and it would be my last chance to do one in Koh Tao before leaving, I wouldn’t let my non-significant cold stop that. I noticed early on, after less than 10 meters, that I couldn’t equalize my ears, especially my left one, as easily as I normally could. I had to wiggle my jaw and swallow quite a few times for the pressure to go. By the time we reached 20 meters I had problems with both. I could see the wreck down there, just ten meters to go, but my ears wouldn’t pop, they just wouldn’t equalize properly. I signaled to the others, already quite a bit ahead of me, that I had problems with my ears, that I would take it slowly.
(1: The wreck, 2: The Roctopus boat, my second or third, or whatever number home at Koh Tao, 3: One of Sammy’s beloved nudibranches 4: sea anemones 5: More wreck 6: Me with Sammy’s seal mascot, it was supposed to attract whale sharks, but it didn’t work too well, a few days after I left Koh Tao, people started spotting whale sharks though, of course)
I did know. I shouldn’t have continued when I couldn’t equalize anymore. My right ear reasoned with me after a while, but the left still wouldn’t cooperate. I went down anyways, it was just a few more meters down, it would be fine, probably, maybe. I could feel the pressure increase, it almost hurt, but I was too busy swimming around the wreck with my camera to take any notice. Every time I went down again, after going a few meters up to see a different part of the wreck, I’d notice the pressure, it would start hurting, but I’d get used to it, everything was fine. Except, it wasn’t. When we got back on the boat, my left ear was blocked. It’s like the feeling when you’ve got water in your air, or when you’re sick, your nose and ears are blocked and your head feels like cotton. I’d constantly put a finger into it, try to make it pop, but it wouldn’t.
I definitely knew that I shouldn’t have gone in the water for a second dive. But the water was all around us, calling out, luring me back in, just one, last, dive. It wouldn’t be a deep one, so it would be all right, wouldn’t it? I did know, and still I went back in. I started having problems at three meters. But as long as I went slowly, slowly, it was almost okay. And then, when I thought everything was good, that I’d found the perfect depth, I felt a piercing pain in both my ears. I had to get up. I swam a few meters up, slowly, but fast enough to comfort my ears. When I reached the surface my nose was bleeding, but I didn’t worry about that, I bleed easily and it was just a tiny bit, what worried me was that both my ears were now blocked. Whenever I spoke it sounded weird. Every sound was slightly muffled, and I’d constantly catch myself trying to clear them out by poking my finger into them.
I should have known, but know I do. It just took me two weeks of blocked ears to learn my lesson.
(Rain, rain, rain, and then some more)