Hyperbaric Medicine Patient Support and Education

The following information is for patients who will be having hyperbaric oxygen treatments (HBOTs).

Safety information for your hyperbaric oxygen treatments

To keep you safe during your treatments we require you to cooperate with us in maintaining a safe environment. It is important to follow these rules:

  • Do not bring anything into the hyperbaric chamber. Because the chamber is pressurized with 100% oxygen, we do not allow items to be taken inside. This includes, but is not limited to, lighters, matches, any device that may create heat, fire or sparks, hand warmers, nylons, wigs, hair pieces, petroleum jelly, ointments, hearing aids, watches, jewelry, synthetic clothing, hard contact lenses, ear buds, cell phones, computers, or tablets. No electronics or battery operated devices are allowed in the hyperbaric chamber.
  • Wear only the cotton hospital gown that we provide; wear nothing else, including underwear or socks.
  • Use only the cotton linens we provide.
  • Do not wear any cosmetics or hair products. This includes all makeup, lipstick or lip balm, hair spray, hair oil, or relaxers.
  • Nail polish must be at least 12 hours old. Do not apply nail polish or gels less than 12 hours before your hyperbaric oxygen treatment.
  • Do not apply lotions, creams, oils, and deodorant for 12 hours prior to your HBOT. If you need to use them, you can apply them after your treatment.
  • Do not wear eyeglasses into the chamber. If you cannot see the TV without your glasses, you may be allowed to wear them if we can determine that they do not have any titanium in them.
  • Books, magazines, newspapers, writing implements, and paper products are not allowed in the chamber.

If you have any questions about these rules or your hyperbaric oxygen treatment, please ask us!

Clearing your ears during hyperbaric oxygen treatments

Ear problems are the most common side effect of hyperbaric oxygen treatments. These are usually a minor annoyance but may become serious. The symptoms range from mild discomfort (a feeling of fullness or pressure) in one or both ears to significant pain. Sounds may be muffled or you may not be able to hear as well.

As the pressure in the chamber increases at the start of your hyperbaric oxygen treatment the air filled space in the middle ear gets smaller. As this space gets smaller the ear drum is pulled inward, causing it to stretch. This stretching causes the discomfort or pain. When the ear drum is stretched it is not able to vibrate normally and sounds are muffled or hearing is decreased. If the pressure is not equalized, damage to the ear drum may occur.

The Eustachian tube goes from the back of the throat to the middle ear and allows air to enter the middle ear. This releases the pressure build up and stretching of the ear drum.

How to clear your ears

There are several simple things you can do to equalize the pressure in the middle ear. This is known as “clearing your ears” or “popping your ears.”

  • Swallow: Swallowing is the easiest technique. Taking a sip of water may help to swallow effectively and easily.
  • Yawn: A big yawn can open your Eustachian tubes.
  • Pinch your nose and swallow while still pinching your nose closed. It may help to have a small amount of water in your mouth to swallow.
  • Pinch your nose, close your mouth, and gently blow through your nose.
  • Move your jaw from side to side.
  • Turn your head as far to the side as you can. Try to touch your chin to your shoulder and swallow or yawn while your head is turned.

You should work to equalize the pressure in your ears as soon as you notice a feeling of fullness in your ears or feel pressure in them. Do it early and often. If it is not working and the pressure is building up, let the staff know. They can stop the compression so you have more time to clear your ears, and help you use the different techniques.

Let the staff know immediately if you are having pain in your ears. If you are unable to equalize the pressure in your ears we may ask you to see an ear doctor to determine if ear tubes would be helpful.