The Swanage Coastguard Team is often called down to the Pier to respond to a diver in distress. Although this year I don’t think we’ve had one.
People always think about 'The Bends' as a diving accident but a much more common problem is an acute ear barotrauma. …sounds a bit technical?, let me try and explain.
When scuba diving, or indeed snorkelling, you need to equalise the pressure in your ears as you descend. This is relatively easily done by squeezing your nose and blowing gently until you hear a gentle pop. You continue to do this as you descend otherwise you suffer pain in your ears due to pressure build up. You have probably experienced it at the bottom of a swimming pool.
On the way back up your ears normally equalise back on their own accord, but yawning or moving your jaw can aid this (and yes you can yawn underwater!)
If a diver is unable to clear his/her ears this can lead to a pressure imbalance in the ears. This is incredibly painful - trust me - it really is not good.
Conversely, sometimes the pressure imbalance causes you to become dizzy (or start to samba), nice feeling but you risk making bad decisions or unconsciousness - and enter the 'incident pit'.
Best way to deal with it is to descend slightly and take your time coming up.
...... nitrogen narcosis or being 'narked'! More on that tomorrow.