I have been an avid snorkeler and free diver (no tanks or snorkel or fins) for a few years and have never had problems equalizing pressure in the ears. I did a free dive in silver springs glen in ocala, florida a couple of weeks ago. the deepest point is about 25 ft. i started my free dive with no problems. when i got to about 18 feet i couldn’t equalized pressure in the left ear no matter what i tried! i even shallowed up to about 12 feet and still couldn’t equalize. i decided to push through it and right before i got to the bottom my left ear gave way… i was extremely dizzy and disoriented and VERY lucky i knew to stay calm and surfaced. i barely made it to wading depth and i kept falling all over the place. What went wrong. i have never had this issue before…why now? what other ways could i have attemted equalization without having punctured my ear drum?

So you learned the hard way that you can’t beat physics and ignore an inability to equalize pressure in your middle ear. What you experienced is called alternobaric vertigo and can result from sudden pressure or temperature changes on the inner ear. Sorry to hear that you injured yourself, hopefully your eardrum will heal quickly without any lasting damage.

Why? Impossible to say from the information given. Perhaps you had a bit of congestion or some other blockage the Eustachian tube to that ear. Perhaps the tissues were swollen or inflamed for some reason. Perhaps the gremlins were about and decided to play a trick on you.

I’m not sure the why is as important as the lesson you hopefully learned about not continuing your descent if you can’t equalize.

What could you have done differently? Again, impossible to say. Were you able to equalize both ears on the surface without any difficulties? If not, it was likely some sort of blockage or inflammation and it was probably a bad idea to try diving that day. If you didn’t have any trouble on the surface, perhaps you waited to long to begin equalizing on that dive and experienced the trapdoor effect, where the Eustachian tube openings get locked shut by the pressure differential. If you had done multiple dives before this one perhaps you irritated the tissues enough on prior dives that they swelled to the point where air couldn’t get through.

Anyway, I hope you can get back to diving soon and don’t try to push past equalization problems in the future. Good luck.