DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Earplugs are devices that occlude the external ear canal. They are primarily used to block the pressure of water on the eardrum. Generally, earplugs should not be used by divers.

Standard solid earplugs create an air space that cannot be equalized while diving, making them generally unsafe for diving; however, some divers use earplugs in special situations.

The main concern is that water pressure could wedge the plug into the ear canal. If this occurs, there is risk of external ear barotrauma. To address these concerns, some manufacturers promote the vented earplug, which has a small hole for venting between the water and the ear canal. The holes typically have a valve for pressurization without letting water enter the ear canal.

Most manufacturers of vented plugs emphasize the ease with which their products equalize and recommend that divers clear their ears frequently while wearing the earplugs to maintain proper pressurization. However, these assertions have not been independently tested. There is not enough data or evidence to recommend the use of plugs for divers. The risks of complications underwater from malfunction or removal of an earplug are real and can potentially place the diver at increased risk for injury.

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