If you are diving or swimming and you find your ears hurt, you may have water trapped in the ear canal. This can be a frustrating experience, but with some simple techniques you can get rid of it quickly and safely.
Ear pain during a dive occurs because of the pressure change that happens as a diver descends. Normally, as you go deeper underwater the air pressure in your Eustachian tube equalizes with the external water pressure pushing on the eardrum (tympanic membrane). If the Eustachian tubes can't equalize, the eardrum can rupture and cold seawater will rush into the middle ear, which is extremely painful and can cause hearing loss if it isn't treated right away.
In order to equalize the pressure, you can do several different maneuvers. The Valsalva Maneuver is a common technique that most divers learn and practice. You can perform this by pinching your nose and blowing forcefully through the nose. This method can work up to 30 meters, but it doesn't always work and should only be used after you feel the pressure change.
Another way to help with equalizing the pressure is by placing a warm compress on your ear. This helps relax the tissues in your ear canal and can promote drainage. If you're unable to equalize the pressure, the best thing to do is return to the surface. It is never worth it to risk a serious injury like a ruptured ear drum.