On my recent trip to Bahamas with a group of AquaSub divers there were many people having troubles with their ears. Some had ear infections developing and some just had trouble equalizing. There are a few things that you can do to help with equalizing and to prevent those pesky ear infections.
It is always important when descending or ascending to stop and go back (up or down depending on which way you're going). Never push past a squeeze or reverse block. When descending equalize frequently, before discomfort is felt. If you're feeling pain then you've already gone too far so go back up a bit and try equalizing. Equalizing methods include pinching your nose and blowing against it, swallowing or wiggling your jaw side to side. If it's not happening then abort the dive. Any congestion due to cold or allergies will prevent equalization.
If you commonly have troubles equalizing and you're not congested then you may want to check out these vented ear plugs, Docs Pro Plugs. Many of my students have had great success with them. They are special since they are vented and still allow you to equalize without allowing water into your ear. They make equalizing easier since the inner ear stays dry and warm. This also helps to prevent ear infections. These ear plugs can be purchased at AquaSub for just under $20.
Still having trouble equalizing? It might be time to pay a visit to your doctor. In some cases I've had students who couldn't equalize who, after seeing their doctor, found out they had a sinus infection that didn't affect them until they tried to go diving. After a round of antibiotics they got it all cleared up an were able to equalize with ease.
Another problem when diving can be getting an ear infection with all the repetitive immersion in water. This could ruin a dive trip. Other than the Docs Pro Plugs, another method to help prevent ear infections is to dry your ears thoroughly after diving. This is best done using an alcohol based solution for 5 minutes in each ear. There are many over the counter ear drops that are marketed for preventing swimmers ear that do the trick. You can also make your own solution mixing rubbing alcohol and white vinegar 1:1 in a bottle.
Happy ears! Happy diving!