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Posted : April 26, 2009
After a discussion of my medical history, I was told by a diving instructor a couple of years ago, that I should never dive, but I wasnít told why. Would it be possible to clarify?
This is the information I exchanged with the diving instructor:

I was born with glue ear, and while itís not as severe in adulthood, itís not cured. I had grommets as a child, during which time I obviously didnít swim at all. I have been left with some scarring on the ear-drum of one ear as a result of this operation. My doctors told me I have a strangely shaped inner canal that prevents my ear draining and balancing fluids properly. Iím not afraid of heights but I do suffer from vertigo (the world spins, I feel disorientation, sometimes I feel sick but not always) and I get motion sickness.

Underwater, where the pool floor (or seabed) drops away like a cliff or even a steep slope I start becoming dizzy and disoriented. From my own point of view, the sight of the drop leaves me feeling as though Iím at the top of a cliff Ė itís not the drop itself that bothers me, but the sensation of ďopen spaceĒ. Itís like I canít focus, so everything around me becomes, for want of a better word, ďwonkyĒ everything begins to spin, and my heart feels like itís sinking through my boots, leaving my stomach churning. Although I do feel the need to get away from the area, itís not an uncontrollable need. The few times Iíve responded to the situation by breaking for the surface, I feel like Iím floundering because I canít focus, so I tend to aim for a wall instead, to give me something to hold onto. When swimming in coastal shallows, I stay in shallow water, as there arenít any walls to linger near. Even in swimming pools, I do laps with my eyes closed, or focused on the far wall that Iím aiming for, and I stay in lanes near the wall, so Iím not in ďopen waterĒ should the sensation hit me. I canít say the experience is caused by fear (I love swimming and Iím not scared of heights, so this experience defies logic for me), but I do become afraid because of what Iím feeling and experiencing.

Posted : April 27, 2009
Thanks for the query.

I think the reason you were discouraged from diving is simply that if you were to have one of these attacks at depth, it might render you incapable of getting to the surface in time.

The concern with any medical condition is "what would happen if this event occurred underwater", and an attack of dizziness and disorientation underwater can be quite dangerous, especially if it is sudden in onset. The anxiety and panic that ensues could easily result in a regulator falling out or a rapid uncontrolled ascent.

Hope that explains things

Dr O
Answer provided by Dr Oliver Firth
Dr Ollie Firth
The views expressed by Dr Firth & Dr Jules are their own and the publishers accept no liability for the advice and views expressed by Dr Firth , Dr Jules, or other users, which are provided as a general service to divers. Users are warned that secondary posts are the views of other users and may not be medically correct.
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