Auditory complaints in scuba divers: an overview

Indian J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2012 Mar;64(1):71-8. doi: 10.1007/s12070-011-0315-6. Epub 2011 Oct 8.


Pre-1970s, diving was seen as a predominantly male working occupation. Since then it has become a popular hobby, with increasing access to SCUBA diving while on holiday. For a leisure activity, diving puts the auditory system at the risk of a wide variety of complaints. However, there is still insufficient consensus on the frequency of these conditions, which ultimately would require more attention from hearing-healthcare professionals. A literature search of epidemiology studies of eight auditory complaints was conducted, using both individual and large-scale diving studies, with some reference to large-scale non-diving populations . A higher incidence was found for middle ear barotrauma, eustachian tube dysfunction, and alternobaric vertigo with a high correlation among females. Comparing these findings with a non-diving population found no statistically significant difference for hearing loss or tinnitus. Increased awareness of health professionals is required, training, and implementation of the Frenzel technique would help resolve the ambiguities of the Valsalva technique underwater.

Keywords: Alternobaric vertigo; Barotrauma; Diving medicine; Ear injuries; Frenzel technique; Inner ear decompression sickness; SCUBA diving.