Because of an emphasis on design and technology, divers tend to assign greater priority to things like face masks and fins than they do to their more important biological bits and pieces. Take ears, for example. Most of us can go for days at a time without even thinking about ears — which is remarkably sad when you consider how much attention we pay to the latest equipment fad.
The reason for this is, of course, the fact that equipment items come with a price tag attached, whereas ears tend to be free as part of an all-inclusive package deal. Lacking any apparent economic worth, ears remain largely ignored when compared with an expensive piece of new diving equipment.
Despite their prominence in Diving 101 texts, ears rarely receive the respect due to such delicate and sensitive instruments. Which is hardly surprising given that their tiny, fiddly bits have robust sounding names like anvil, stirrup, hammer, and drum; common labels that make the ear’s inner workings sound like the shop floor of a busy iron foundry.
But while the need for ear care is something that most divers will readily acknowledge, very few put belief into practice and have them regularly checked by a physician. Even using cotton buds, or a finger, to remove protective wax is fraught with problems. Ignoring the old adage about never poking anything smaller than one’s elbow into the ear, amateur excavators can cause permanent damage leading to a loss of hearing in later life.
Quickly learning that the easiest way to save face when they have doubts about a particular dive is to claim an inability to, “clear their ears”, the well-worn excuse has, for some divers, become the only time when the health of their ears has any practical value.
Diving since 1961 — with a background in military, commercial, recreational and technical diving — David Strike has dived extensively throughout the Asia-Pacific region, is a Fellow of the Explorers Club, and the organiser of the biennial OZTeK Diving Conference.