The Journal of International
Advanced Otology

Inner Ear Disorders in SCUBA Divers: A Review


Department of Medicine and Surgery, University of Salerno, Salerno, Italy


Department of Sense Organs, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy


Department of Molecular and Clinical Sciences, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy


Department of Otorhinolaryngology, University Hospital 'San Giovanni di Dio e Ruggi d'Aragona', Salerno, Italy


Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Turin, Turin, Italy

J Int Adv Otol 2021; 17: 260-264
DOI: 10.5152/iao.2021.8892
Read: 2323 Downloads: 694 Published: 01 May 2021

Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) diving is a popular sport. However, improper diving may injure different organs. The majority of dive-related disorders concern otolaryngology, and may include hearing loss, tinnitus, aural fullness, disequilibrium, and vertigo. Three main inner ear pathological conditions can occur underwater: inner ear barotrauma (IEB), inner ear decompression sickness (IEDS), and alternobaric vertigo (AV). IEB results from inappropriate equalization of middle ear pressure and consequent inner ear injury produced by pressure changes within the middle ear; IEDS is characterized by the formation of gas bubbles within the vessels of the inner ear during rapid ascent; AV typically develops while ascending or performing the Valsalva maneuver and can follow asymmetrical equalization of middle ear pressure transmitted via the oval and round window membranes. The clinical pictures of these pathological conditions are partly superimposable, even if they have specific peculiarities. Before starting SCUBA diving, a fit-to-dive assessment is recommended. It should include an otolaryngologic
examination with audiological assessment to evaluate nasal, middle ear, and tubal patency and to minimize the risk of IEB, IEDS, and AV. It is of utmost importance to identify individual risk factors and predisposing pathological conditions that favor inner ear injury before diving, to prevent acute events and preserve auditory and vestibular functions in SCUBA divers. This review aims to provide an overview of the pathological conditions characterized by inner ear injury in SCUBA divers, discussing their pathogenetic mechanisms, diagnostic work-up, and prevention.

Cite this article as: Scarpa A, Ralli M, De Luca P, et al. Inner ear disorders in scuba divers: a review. J Int Adv Otol. 2021;17(3):260-264.

EISSN 2148-3817