Andrea Lewis, Tasmania asked:
Do submariners ears pop?
Helen - No their ears probably don't pop because in fact, unlike a scuba diver who takes down a tank of air and breathes it at pressure that is equal to the water around them—which becomes very high very quickly as you go down—submarines are pressurised so that inside them they maintain the same pressure as air at the sea surface (1 atmosphere or atm: the unit we use to measure pressure). Whereas when you're scuba diving, you could be breathing air at something more like 20 atmospheres, which is much more dense. It’s that pressure that makes your ears pop and you haven’t got that in submarines. You may get a bit of compression as you're going down in a submarine as some of that pressure from the water is pushing in on the metal structure and the air inside. But I think that’s fairly minor, I imagine.
Andrea Lewis asked the Naked Scientists: Greetings from the other side of the world! Love the podcast - completely addicted! My question is when you go up in a plane your ears pop due to changes in pressure, does the same thing happen when you go down in a submarine? Many thanks Andrea Hobart, Tasmania Australia What do you think? Andrea Lewis , Thu, 14th Jan 2010
The pressure inside an aircraft is not held constant. While it is pressurised to some extent, it does decrease with altitude. This saves fuel and increases the service life of the aircraft, and it's why we experience effects on our ears and sinuses.
No - it is true- my nephew is a submariner. And when he comes back from from sea duty he has problems with his ears - but not while at sea. JimBob, Thu, 14th Jan 2010