Health & Diving

Ears & Diving

Ears & Diving

Ear Ventilation Tubes

Ear ventilation tubes are small tubes that are surgically inserted through the eardrum to enhance drainage and equalization.


Procedure

Small ventilation tubes may be surgically inserted through the eardrum (tympanic membrane) to help interrupt a cycle of repetitive middle-ear infections. The infection process causes swelling and inflammation in the Eustachian tubes, preventing proper drainage; the ventilation tubes enable drainage from the middle ear until the Eustachian tubes normalize. Inserting the ventilation tubes through a small incision in the tympanic membrane (myringotomy) usually corrects this situation.

The tubes are not meant to be permanent implants and usually fall out on their own or are removed by the physician. The small incision usually heals shortly after the tubes are removed. In rare cases, a small hole may remain if the tubes are left in for a long period of time. This situation can be tested for and is best addressed by your physician. It is unlikely that the tubes are still in place after more than a few years.

Fitness to Dive

Diving is not recommended while the tubes are in place as they will allow water to enter the middle ear, risking vertigo

Persistent feeling of tilting, swaying, whirling or spinning motion of oneself or of the surrounding world when nothing is moving.

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and infection. After the ventilation tubes are removed or come out, adequate time for healing must be allowed (at least six weeks). Middle-ear and Eustachian tube function must be confirmed as normal before diving
is considered.

A bigger problem may be scarring of the Eustachian tubes as a result of the chronic ear infections. This can make ear equalization difficult for the diver. Currently, there is no surgical procedure that can correct a partially obstructed Eustachian tube.

Children and adults alike need immediate attention for symptoms of middle-ear infection and barotrauma. Symptoms may include but are not limited to pain; ringing or roaring in the ears (tinnitus); a sensation of partial, decreased or muffled hearing; and drainage from the ear canal.

Further Reading

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