Hands-Free Equalization: Can It Be Learned?

In the world of freediving, achieving hands-free equalization is a skill that many divers strive for. It offers a level of control and comfort that can greatly enhance the diving experience.

Hands-Free Equalization: Can It Be Learned?
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How can you equalize ‘hands-free’?

In the world of freediving, achieving hands-free equalization is a skill that many divers strive for. It offers a level of control and comfort that can greatly enhance the diving experience.
As someone who has been practicing apnea since 1997, I have had the opportunity to develop and refine my technique for hands-free equalization. In this article, I’ll share my journey and provide advice based on my practice and expertise.

Getting started

When I first started my freediving journey, I discovered that by exerting a specific tension in my jaw muscles, similar to the sensation of yawning without opening my mouth too wide, I could equalize my ears. However, this technique did not always work perfectly initially, and I often had to rely on the Frenzel technique with my hand to assist in equalization.
To improve my skills, I took advantage of the diving pool at my university, which had a depth of 4 meters. This allowed me to practice the technique 3 to 5 times a week. But it didn't stop there. I realized that I could also train outside the water in my daily life.
Whether I was on the subway, studying, in classes, or even watching television, I started moving my jaw and engaging certain associated muscles to produce an "equalization click" in my ears and Eustachian tube.
I dedicated myself to this exercise, repeating it hundreds of times a day. With each repetition, I gained more control and mobility, resulting in a clearer and more effective clicking sound/sensation during equalization.
As months passed, I made significant progress. By activating specific muscles in my soft palate and continuing to refine my technique, I achieved complete hands-free equalization.
It's important to note that I developed this technique independently, as there were no resources available to me in Venezuela at that time.
Over the years, my hands-free equalization technique has proven to be invaluable. It has allowed me to reach extreme depths in world records, particularly in the Constant Weight discipline.
It has benefited my career as an apnea instructor trainer as well as my passion for underwater photography and breath-hold videography.
With the ability to equalize hands-free, I can manipulate the camera and closely supervise my students during multiple dives.

Leaning the skill

Based on my experience working with numerous students and colleagues, I would like to share some insights and conclusions:
  1. Every freediver can significantly enhance their middle ear equalization ability by focusing on exercises that improve muscular mobility around the jaw, tongue, and soft palate. While many individuals can achieve hands-free equalization with practice and time, it's essential to recognize that certain factors, such as anatomy, allergies, and nasal congestion, may limit this capability.
  1. To get started, I recommend a simple exercise: mimic a yawn by moving your jaw as if you were pushing it forward, without opening your mouth too wide—just the initial part of the yawn. Repeat this exercise 30 times, three times a day. Patience is key, so continue practicing for at least two weeks. The goal is to achieve a clicking sound/sensation during equalization. If you don't experience anything initially, keep practicing and pay attention to the sensations and sounds. I will share more exercises in the near future.
  1. By incorporating these exercises into your daily routine and performing them consistently for several weeks, you will notice a significant improvement in the equalization of your middle ear. This enhancement will help you conserve energy, relax more, and avoid discomfort while diving.
  1. Before attempting hands-free equalization in water or at depth, it's crucial to master the Frenzel technique with your hand. Once you have control over Frenzel equalization and are ready to explore hands-free equalization, I recommend using a buoy-line-weight system to descend gradually and in a controlled manner. Take small steps, ensuring incremental equalizations for safety. Remember, it's a process, and rushing will not be helpful. Practicing in a deep pool of 3 to 4 meters is also an option, but it's advisable to control the descent speed using a line. Always ensure that a training partner supervises you during these practices.

Keep practicing

With dedication and practice, you can achieve a new level of control and comfort when equalizing your ears.
Soon, I will publish another article with more advanced exercises and additional tips to optimize your equalization technique, potentially leading you to extraordinary hands-free equalization.

Written by

Carlos Coste
Carlos Coste

Legendary Freediver, Coach, Adventurer, Ocean Ambassador, + First Human Below -100m CWT/FIM