Squeeze in Scuba Diving


The term “squeeze” in the context of scuba diving refers to the discomfort, and often pain, experienced by divers due to changes in pressure. The phenomenon can affect various parts of the body, such as the mask, ears, and other enclosed spaces. When diving, the water pressure increases with depth, thereby creating a pressure differential between the diver’s body cavities and the surrounding water. Understanding and effectively managing squeeze is vital for divers’ safety and comfort.

Physiology of Squeeze

The physics of pressure changes is at the root of the squeeze phenomenon. The human body consists of various enclosed spaces, like the middle ear and sinuses, which contain air. As per Boyle’s law, the volume of a gas decreases as the pressure around it increases. Thus, when a diver descends, the increase in water pressure compresses the air within these spaces, creating an uncomfortable sensation known as a squeeze.

Types of Squeeze

Mask Squeeze

Mask squeeze, or face squeeze, occurs when a diver neglects to equalize the pressure inside the diving mask with the surrounding water pressure. As the diver descends, the increasing pressure causes the mask to tighten onto the face, leading to discomfort and, in severe cases, capillary rupture resulting in red marks or bruises on the face. In the most extreme cases, it can cause subconjunctival hemorrhage, which manifests as a bloody appearance in the whites of the eyes.

Ear Squeeze

Ear squeeze, also known as barotitis or barotrauma, is a common issue among divers. The middle ear is an enclosed space connected to the surface via the Eustachian tubes, which help equalize pressure. During descent, failure to equalize pressure in the middle ear can cause a painful squeeze. The symptoms can range from slight discomfort to severe pain, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), vertigo, and in rare instances, eardrum rupture.

Sinus Squeeze

Sinus squeeze happens when the air-filled sinus cavities fail to equalize pressure during a dive. Blocked sinuses hinder the free flow of air, resulting in pain in the forehead or face. In severe cases, it can cause sinus bleeding.

Prevention and Treatment

Squeeze events are mostly preventable through proper dive practices. Regular equalization is key to preventing a squeeze. For a mask squeeze, exhaling gently through the nose into the mask can balance the pressure. Techniques such as swallowing, yawning, or using the Valsalva maneuver can help prevent ear and sinus squeezes by opening the Eustachian tubes to allow pressure equalization.

Despite preventive measures, if a squeeze occurs, it’s essential to ascend slowly to decrease pressure and alleviate discomfort. After surfacing, if the pain persists or if there is noticeable hearing loss, dizziness, or visual changes, medical attention should be sought immediately. Treatment depends on the severity of the squeeze and can range from simple analgesics for pain to surgical intervention in severe cases.


Squeeze is a common issue in scuba diving that primarily results from pressure changes. Awareness, understanding of its physiology, and appropriate preventative measures are crucial for divers to safely enjoy their underwater explorations. When squeeze symptoms are identified, prompt action and, in some cases, medical treatment are necessary to prevent serious health consequences. By managing these risks effectively, divers can continue to explore the underwater world with comfort and confidence.

The Importance of Training and Experience

The importance of training and experience in managing squeeze cannot be overstated. Professional training provides divers with the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent and respond to squeeze. Regular diving enhances a diver’s ability to recognize the early signs of squeeze and take immediate corrective action.

A key part of this training involves learning about the physics of diving. Understanding the relationship between pressure, volume, and depth (as described by Boyle’s law) is crucial to understanding the causes and prevention of squeeze. Additionally, divers are trained in various equalization techniques that are critical for preventing squeeze.

Equipment Considerations

Proper scuba equipment is also crucial in preventing squeeze. Diving masks should fit properly and be comfortable to wear. Masks with built-in nose pockets allow divers to equalize the pressure in their masks more easily. Similarly, divers should use a well-fitted wetsuit. Tight suits may constrict the chest, making it harder to equalize pressure in the middle ear and sinuses.

For divers who frequently experience ear or sinus squeeze despite following correct equalization techniques, specialist equipment such as vents or valves that facilitate easier pressure equalization might be worth considering. However, such equipment should only be used after consulting with a diving professional or medical expert.

Squeeze in Deep and Technical Diving

Deep and technical divers are more likely to experience squeeze due to the greater pressure changes involved in these types of dives. They require advanced training and experience to manage these risks effectively. Specialized equipment, such as diving suits and helmets that assist in pressure regulation, may also be used. Despite these additional challenges, with appropriate training and preparation, deep and technical divers can successfully manage the risks associated with squeeze.

Final Remarks

Squeeze is a common, yet manageable, concern in scuba diving. Through understanding the underlying physics, adhering to proper diving practices, using appropriate equipment, and obtaining professional training and regular experience, divers can effectively prevent and manage squeeze. In doing so, they ensure their own safety and enhance their overall diving experience. As with all aspects of diving, respect for the underwater environment and recognition of one’s limitations are paramount. These principles, along with understanding the risks such as squeeze, contribute to the enjoyment and longevity of a diver’s pursuit of exploring the underwater world.