Guide to Mastering the Toynbee Maneuver

One thing that all scuba divers experience, no matter how many dives they’ve done, is the feeling of pressure in their ears when descending deeper into the water.

The way that divers typically deal with this overwhelming pressure change is through the use of equalizing.

Equalizing is when the diver counters the pressure that is caused by the water, and there are a number of different techniques that are used. The most popular technique is the Toynbee maneuver.

What is the Toynbee Maneuver?

how to use the toynbee maneuver

The Toynbee Maneuver is a technique used by divers to equalize pressure in the middle ear. It involves swallowing while simultaneously pinching the nose shut and keeping the mouth closed.

This maneuver is particularly helpful in environments with big pressure changes such as scuba diving, and also when dealing with issues such as ear congestion, eustachian tube dysfunction, or discomfort during air travel.

How Does it Work?

The Toynbee maneuver works by opening the Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat. When these tubes are blocked or not functioning properly, pressure can build up in the middle ear, leading to various symptoms like ear pain, muffled hearing, or even dizziness.

By performing it correctly, you can alleviate these symptoms and restore pressure balance in the middle ear. It’s a simple yet effective technique that can be easily mastered with practice.

Practising the Toynbee Maneuver

Before you start practicing the Toynbee maneuver, it’s important to gather the necessary equipment. While it doesn’t require any special tools, having the following items on hand can enhance your experience:

  • A bottle of water
  • A small towel or tissue

The water will help in swallowing, while the towel or tissue can be used to wipe any excess moisture from your face. These simple items will ensure a smooth execution of the maneuver.

Step 1: Finding the ideal location

Follow these tips to find the ideal spot.

  • Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can focus without distractions.
  • Sit or stand in an upright position to allow for better control and body alignment.
  • Ensure proper lighting for visibility, especially if you are using a mirror for self-observation.

By selecting the right location, you can create an environment conducive to mastering the Toynbee Maneuver.

Step 2: Proper technique and execution

Mastering the proper technique and execution of the maneuver is key to its success. Follow these steps for optimal results:

  • Begin by taking a sip of water to moisten your throat.
  • Pinch your nose shut using your thumb and index finger.
  • Close your mouth and keep it sealed.
  • Swallow the water while maintaining the pinched nose and closed mouth.
  • Repeat the swallowing motion a few times, ensuring each swallow is deliberate and controlled.
  • Release the nose and mouth, allowing yourself to breathe normally.

Practicing this technique regularly will help you become proficient in performing ear equalisation later while underwater.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While the maneuver is relatively simple, there are a few common mistakes that beginners often make. By avoiding these errors, you can ensure better results.

  1. Not maintaining a closed mouth while swallowing.
  2. Failing to pinch the nose shut adequately.
  3. Swallowing too quickly or forcefully.
  4. Not practicing regularly to build muscle memory and efficiency.

By being aware of these mistakes and actively working to correct them, you can troubleshoot any issues and improve your ear equalizing technique.


Can the Toynbee Maneuver help with ear pain during air travel?

Yes, the Toynbee Maneuver can be effective in alleviating ear pain or discomfort caused by changes in air pressure during air travel.

Can the Toynbee Maneuver be performed by children?

Yes, the maneuver can be safely performed by children under adult supervision. However, it’s important to teach them the proper technique and ensure they understand the importance of swallowing with a closed mouth and pinched nose.

Can the Toynbee Maneuver cure ear infections?

It is not a cure for ear injuries or infections. It can help alleviate symptoms related to pressure imbalances but should not replace proper medical treatment for infections.

If you have specific concerns or medical conditions, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

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