Inner ear decompression sickness.
With recent increases in commercial, military, and sport diving to deeper depths, inner ear injuries during such exposures have been encountered more frequently and noted during several phases of diving: during compression, at stable deep depths, with excessive noise exposure in diving, and during decompression. The pathophysiology of these injuries differs, depending upon the phase of diving in which the injuries occur. In this report, 23 cases of hearing loss, tinnitus, and/or vertigo occurring during or shortly after decompression are presented. Thirteen of these cases occurred in helium-oxygen dives involving a change to air during the latter stages of decompression. A significant correlation is present between prompt recompression treatment, relief of symptoms, and lack of residual deficits. Current knowledge indicates that the management of otologic decompression sickness should include: 1. prompt recompression to at least 99 feet deeper than the symptom onset depth; 2. recompression using the previous helium-oxygen mixture when the injuries occur during or shortly after a switch from helium-oxygen to air during the latter stages of decompression; 3. the use of parenteral diazepam for symptom relief and cyclic inhalations of oxygen enriched treatment gases; and 4. the avoidance of further diving by divers who exhibit permanent inner ear injuries after the acute symptoms have subsided.
Farmer, JC; Thomas, WG; Youngblood, DG; Bennett, PB
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