Ear barotrauma is a painful or uncomfortable sensation in the ear due to pressure differences between the middle ear and the outside air or water. The pain can be acute, lasting only a few minutes, or it can be chronic, lasting a long time and possibly leading to complications. Acute cases are generally harmless and clear up without treatment. Chronic cases require medical intervention. Ear barotrauma causes and treatments vary in relation to the severity of the symptoms. Symptoms for both can include hearing loss, dizziness, a feeling of fullness in the ear, and overall discomfort. Serious cases involve more pain and pressure, fluid or blood drainage, increased hearing loss, and eardrum injury.
The descent of the scuba diver into the ocean or lake causes an imbalance of pressure between the middle ear and the water. This affects the eardrum or tympanic membrane. Fast descent does not give the middle ear time to adjust to the pressure and may result in damage to the eardrum. Scuba divers must descend and return to the surface slowly.
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