Preventing Ear Damage / Wetsuit Preparation Oliver Haroun

by Oliver Haroun - August 13th

Preventing Ear Damage / Wetsuit Preparation

Most open-cell neoprene freediving wetsuits are built with an integrated hood, and without proper adjustments we can encounter a pressure related problem called barotitis externa (further discussed in your FII level 1 and FII level 2 courses).

You may have experienced it already, during a freedive, you are able to equalize just fine and then at a certain depth, it feels like you hit a wall – you are just unable to equalize.

As Freedivers we freedive down at a fast rate and the atmospheric pressure rapidly increases as water is denser than air. Due to the high quality of the neoprene, a semi-rigid airspace can get created between the hood and your ear. As depth is increased, this airspace compresses resulting in the hood being “sucked in” your ear canal and your eardrum being pulled outwards towards it. Attempts to equalize will be totally unsuccessful and trying to force it could result in rupture in your eardrum.

The good news is that it's completely preventable and we would like to share this tip with you.

Temporary Fix: 

Flood your Hood, lift the edge of your hood and let water in it before each dive.

Permanent Fix:

1. While wearing the hood, you need to mark the exact location of your ear canal.

2. Now this is the most important step... TAKE OFF THE HOOD!

3. Make sure the suit is dry and use a lighter to heat a safety pin and melt a little hole in your hood where you marked. 

4. If the problem persists, repeat step 3 above to increase the size of the hole slightly, do not make a hole so big that it allows (cold) water to rush into your hood and ear.

Please note that the hole has to be done by heat/melting… if you use a knife/scissors to cut holes those will end up tearing at some point.

For more tips and information on Oliver's FII freediving courses in South Florida, follow him on Instagram @driftfreediving or go to

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