First Aid Management: Ear Squeeze

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Ear squeeze typically occurs when there is unequal pressure between the middle ear and the pressure in the environment. It usually occurs in the middle ear, but can also appear in the external ear and the inner ear, when pressure inside is less than the surrounding pressure. The most common cause is sudden change in altitude, such as diving underwater, landing on an airplane, or driving down a mountain. Changes in pressure is especially felt in water wherein descent of a few feet can cause symptoms to appear. As one descends deeper into the ocean, the pressure will result to the closing of the Eustachian tube, creating a closed air space behind the eardrum. The increase in pressure will cause the flexible eardrum to stretch towards the middle ear causing the initial symptoms to appear.

Risk Factors of Ear Squeeze

Although ear squeeze is primarily caused by change in temperature, several risk factors can increase a person’s chances of

  • Inadequate or forceful equalization
  • Diving with a cold or allergies
  • Buildup of wax in the ears
  • Using a tight hood or mask over the ear

Symptoms of Ear Squeeze

The initial symptoms of ear squeeze include pain or discomfort in the ear. Ear squeeze can be very dangerous for the diver if ear squeeze begins at depth. The following are the other signs and symptoms that may occur in cases of ear squeeze:

  • Sensation of fullness in the ear
    Ringing in the ear is a common symptom
    Ringing in the ear is a common symptom
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vertigo
  • Discharge from the ear, but may also come from the nose or mouth

First Aid Management for Ear Squeeze

All cases of ear squeeze should be treated immediately to avoid any complications from occurring. Such complications include ruptured eardrum. The following first aid may be done to effectively manage ear squeeze:

  • Take plenty of rest. Avoid any change in altitude. Do not attempt to equalize the pressure in the ears.
  • Take pain medications, such as one to two paracetamol tablets every four hours or one to two ibuprofen tablets every six to eight hours.
  • Take pseudoephedrine 30 mg tablets, one for every six hours for two to three days to help relieve congestion. This product is not recommended for people with history of hypertension and heart rhythm problems.
  • For cases of ear discharge, seek medical advice before taking any oral antibiotics.

Ear squeeze is generally considered a medical emergency. Seek medical attention immediately. To learn more about how to manage ear squeeze and other medical emergencies, enroll in First Aid Courses with workplace approved Training.

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