FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SKYDIVING AND YOUR EARS
When you think about skydiving, one of the things that may not cross your mind is hearing protection. This may come as a surprise but skydiving and your ears are highly associated.
1.1 Why wear earplugs while skydiving?
In this blog, we will talk about five reasons why you need to add custom earplugs to your jump bag.
Table of Contents
The risks associated with modern skydiving have not been adequately described in scientific literature. Previous studies have shown that in the US, injury rates reach 170 per 100,000 jumps with a hospital admission rate of 18 per 100,000. In addition, European countries have also reported similar injury rates, Accidents lead to bruises, lacerations, sprains, fractures, or even worse, death. However, there is a type of injury which cannot be directly seen by the naked eye but may equally be devastating: ear trauma. This includes tympanic membrane perforation, tinnitus, noise-induced hearing loss, ear pain and ear fullness.
One of the injuries that can last for a long time is noise-induced hearing loss. According to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, individuals with hearing loss may have difficulty in terms of communication and safety in the workplace. In addition, they may become depressed, socially isolated and prone to accidents.
A frequently overlooked factor in dealing with hearing loss is medication. Some medications may be toxic to the inner ear, which affects hearing, or vestibular organs, which impact balance. Read more about ototoxic medications here .
Turning to skydiving, hearing protection is always essential whether you are an occasional skydiver or a professional one. You may not perceive anything different in your hearing right away but over time, with increased exposure to noise, you will have some kind of hearing impairment.
1.2 Here are a few but important things to know about skydiving and your ears:
1.2.1. Identify and understand the causes and consequences of noise-induced hearing loss.
In the setting of skydiving, the environment, more often than not, includes roaring aircraft and strong winds. Both of these can become very loud and painful to the ears. If you skydive rarely or maybe just once in your lifetime, then you may not suffer long-term consequences. However, those who participate frequently in this sport are increasingly at risk of symptoms of ringing ears, diminished hearing, ear fullness, vertigo and ear pain. Alarmingly, these could lead to permanent damage.
1.2.2. Have your hearing protection ready when you need it.
Having mentioned the hazards of noise exposure while skydiving, it goes without saying that you need to wear some form of hearing protection. Earplugs attenuate sound levels depending on their noise reduction ratings. There are numerous generic earplugs in the market. However, if you want to be certain of the fit and sound attenuation, consider getting custom earplugs. Make sure that you always have these within reach so that you are protected while on the go.
1.2.3. Know the importance of equalizing pressure in your ears.
Another common medical complication from skydiving is barotrauma or damage due to changes in pressure. This is usually caused by lack of pressure equalization. When this occurs, the middle or the inner ear may be affected.
Some earplugs have devices that help in equalizing pressure. These will help greatly in reducing barotrauma. A good example of this hearing protection is the Skydiving Filtered Hearing Protection . This has a patented filter that is lightweight and functions as pressure equalizer. This does not give a plugged-up feeling and allows for situational awareness.
1.2.4. Jump with a clear head.
Aside from ear barotrauma, it is also essential to be aware of sinus barotrauma. This can lead to bleeding and headaches. A study revealed that mucus membrane inflammation, nasal or sinus polyps, nasal septum curvature and nasal concha hypertrophy are some of the factors which contribute to sinus barotrauma. Obstruction of the sinuses or Eustachian tube creates a difference in pressure which results in pathological symptoms. Hence, before skydiving, you must be aware of any nasal or sinus conditions. Otherwise, you may find yourself abandoning your dive altogether.
As a tip, it would be helpful to take a decongestant a few hours before doing the jump as this would help dry up mucus membranes. However, make sure to check with your physician first before taking any kind of medication.
Another thing that would help prevent pressure differences is dual filtered earplugs. Not only do these protect the hearing but these also prevent the creation of an airspace that could expand and contract during ascent and fall.
1.2.5. Practice using hearing protection even on land.
You should protect your hearing on land as much as when you are on air, even more actually. Obviously, people are exposed more to noise on the ground, either at home, in the workplace, or in recreational areas.
After a successful jump, you may find yourself celebrating in a sports bar or in a party. These places can easily get really loud. By using the same filtered earplugs, you can protect your hearing and enjoy the scene at the same time.
1.3 Learn more about choosing the right earplugs.
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Do Your Ears Pop When Skydiving? Health and Safety
Do your ears pop when skydiving? It’s one thing to take a plane quickly up to a high altitude, but another to then jump out and plummet back down at 120 MPH. How does this affect your ears and equilibrium?
Everyone is a little different, and I’m sure you’ve already experienced ear popping when driving through the mountains or when taking a flight. Some people rarely get or feel these pops, while it can play havoc and even cause pain for others. If your ears are sensitive to the pressures of such altitude changes, it’s helpful to understand more about why your ears pop when skydiving and the possible dangers.
Let’s look at why skydiving sometimes blocks your ears and makes them pop. We can look at what is happening inside when they pop and explore some trusted techniques for unclogging your ears after a skydive.
Will my ears pop when skydiving?
Will my ears pop when skydiving?
If you are someone who regularly feels their ears popping when traveling anywhere at altitude, it will likely happen during your skydive. Having that blocked feeling in your ears can be frustrating, but that ‘popping’ is the relieving moment when they suddenly clear. Even if you aren’t someone who usually gets that ear-popping, there’s a good chance you will when skydiving.
It can start in the jump plane. Ear pops happen when the air pressure in your inner ear is different from the air pressure outside. Air pressure changes with altitude, and the quicker your altitude changes, the faster the air pressure changes, and the harder your ears have to work to equalize. While many people get blocked ears and ear pops on commercial flights, these planes have systems to pressurize the cabins above 3,000 feet. The aircraft used to carry skydivers up to altitude doesn’t, and you feel that change in air pressure as you climb higher. It’s common for some skydivers to have their ears pop on the journey up.
When you leap from the plane and head towards a freefall of 120 MPH, you’re quickly reversing that change in altitude. This sudden change in air pressure puts a lot of stress on your ears as they quickly try to adjust and equalize. Your body tries to counter this by blowing more air into your ear and pumping more blood into the tissue. Eventually, your ears pop as they finally equalize to the air pressure outside.
While it may feel a little uncomfortable for some, most people will be so distracted by the adrenaline and excitement of freefall they won’t even notice it.
Why does skydiving make your ears pop?
Why does skydiving make your ears pop?
When the pressure changes and your ears struggle to adjust fast enough, they may start to feel blocked or clogged up. This feeling is called barotrauma. Inside your ear, you have a Eustachian tube that supplies air to your middle ear. It’s normal for air to get trapped within your middle ear, and when it’s trapped, the Eustachian tube passes through more air to unblock it. It is essentially trying to give you equal amounts of pressure on either side of your eardrums, balanced with the air pressure around you.
When there is a change in air pressure, the Eustachian works hard to keep the pressure balance, but it struggles to keep up when it’s happening too fast. In the unpressured jump plane cabins traveling to altitude, the air pressure is quickly dropping. Then when you jump into freefall, the air pressure is very quickly climbing.
When the pressure changes too quickly and your ears cannot equalize fast enough, it causes the eardrum to bend inwards or outwards; this is the clogged and blocked feeling you get. The popping feeling you get is the eardrum falling back into place and air entering, as the pressure in your middle and inner ear equalize once again. This is usually accompanied by that instant feeling of relief as the discomfort disappears.
Once you pull your parachute and the change in air pressure slows down with your speed, your ears begin to overcome the difference and equalize more easily. However, that clogged feeling may remain and take a bit of time to clear.
How do I unclog my ears after skydiving?
How do I unclog my ears after skydiving?
As the air pressure changes, your Eustachian tube will open automatically to equalize your ear pressure. It also opens any time you swallow, yawn, or blow your nose. Sometimes when your ears don’t pop and unclog, it can be frustrating or even painful. However, there are techniques you can try to help the situation:
Swallowing: By swallowing, you reopen the Eustachian and help the equalizing process, pushing more air into your middle ear. One swallow may not do the trick, so you should try swallowing every few seconds. This technique can also be done very effectively by chewing gum.
Yawing: Yawning works in the same way; you may even feel your ears crackle as you yawn. It doesn’t have to be a genuine yawn. Faking a yawn should do the trick: open your mouth as wide as you can and take a deep breath.
Valsalva maneuver: This is performed by pinching your nose, closing your mouth, and trying to breathe out of your nose. It can be more effective if you try to squeeze your face cheeks in at the same time.
Toynbee maneuver: Similar to the Valsalva maneuver, with this one, instead of trying to breathe out of your nose, you should try to swallow several times.
With each of these methods, it’s critical to be gentle and remain calm. Your eardrum is delicate, and sometimes there can be other factors contributing to that blocked feeling, including an ear infection or dehydration. Although frustrating, it’s occasionally normal for it to take a day or two for your ears to equalize again. You should only start to seek medical advice if this feeling remains for over a week.
Should you wear earplugs when skydiving?
Should you wear earplugs when skydiving?
In extreme cases, these changes in air pressure can lead to more severe damage. Your Eustachian tube can become blocked and be unable to unblock itself. Such problems can sometimes require medication or even surgery to repair the damage. This is one of the dangers when skydiving with already blocked sinuses and why you should never skydive when feeling a little sick or stuffy. Wearing earplugs can make a difference.
Wearing earplugs is a smart option if you have any previous issues with your ears equalizing or are concerned about the possible dangers. As with scuba diving, a good set of earplugs or ear putty can decrease the risks and increase comfort.
As well as helping to protect against fast air pressure changes, earplugs also help cancel out a lot of the noise you’ll experience on a typical skydive. The jump planes can be basic and noisy vehicles, especially when the door is open. And when you go into freefall, the sound of the air rushing by you can sound aggressive. There isn’t much else to hear when skydiving, so there are no real cons to wearing earplugs on a jump; many skydivers do.
Does Skydiving Hurt Your Ears?
Skydiving is awesome. Really! It’s new, it’s exciting and it’s full of brand new sensations that you’ve never felt before – and may never feel again (unless you come back and jump some more!). One of the sensations we’re asked about from time to time is that of air pressure. Now, anyone who’s flown in a commercial aircraft before will know that the changing air pressure as you go up and come down can make it feel like your ears are popping. But is that the same when you’re skydiving and how is skydiving with a cold?
OK, so one of the main things that affect your experience on the way to altitude is that skydiving airplanes are different to commercial airliners.
Well, aside from being a whole bunch smaller – and the lack of in-flight refreshments! – skydiving airplanes differ from commercial aircraft because they don’t have the same cabin pressurization.
While the airplane taking you away on vacation pressurizes at 3,000 feet – which means that at every point above 3,000 feet, it feels like 3,000 feet in terms of the amount of pressure you feel – a skydiving airplane is not pressurized, so you feel the air changing as you get higher.
That can affect how your ears feel. They might feel the changing air pressure making them feel a little stuffy. On the whole – and providing you’re not sick (as we’ll talk about later) – the whole thing is painless.
On the way back to earth, you’ll be traveling at around 120mph. That’s pretty fast!
That, of course, has the opposite effect of going up in the airplane. Your ears will feel the changing air pressure on the way down, just as they do on the way up, but this time, the change is happening much faster.
Think about it this way; the air is thinner higher up, so the pressure outside your ears is less than inside, meaning there is a push from the inside to the outside as the two try to equalize. As you come down, the air is getting thicker and the pressure is more than inside your ears, meaning the push goes the other way.
Physically, this feels like your ears are filling up, and it can make it harder to hear. But don’t worry, it’s only temporary…
How to Equalize Your Ears?
Equalizing your ears means gently blowing out your nose while keeping the nostrils covered. You can also try to swallow the same time you are gently blowing into your nose. This changes the air pressure inside your ears to match that outside of them, making you feel more comfortable again. It’s likely you’ve done this before, maybe by sucking on a piece of candy on the way to altitude on your last vacation.
Because equalizing means balancing your ears to the outside environment, we always recommend waiting to equalize until you get down. That’s because you want to balance your ears against the environment on the ground, rather than up high since you’re not planning to stay up high for long!
Skydiving with a cold
Skydiving with blocked sinuses is an absolute no-no.
If you jump with blocked sinuses – maybe you’re sick or you have a common cold – you risk your ears being unable to equalize. And that can be very painful!
If you wake up on the morning of your skydive and your sinuses (nose or ears) feel blocked, drop us a line and we’ll be happy to advise you.