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IST Pro Ear Mask Review PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ken Rowe   
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 17:26

Is the Pro Ear Mask by IST Sports the answer to the prayers of divers with ear problems?  Not entirely, but it definitely goes a long way to aid those suffering from chronic ear problems associated with diving.

I have used the IST Pro EAR Mask now on nine dives.  The mask comes in three models.  The ME7 which has a clear silicone skirt and blue accents around the lens and the ear cups  (more on the ear cups later).  This model also is a single lens mask. The ME80 which is a twin lens mask.  This model also has a clear silicone skirt, but has black accents around on the lens frame and around the ear cups.   The model I tested and continue to use was the ME55 which is a two lens mask with a black frame and black silicone skirt.  It looked super stealthy, and surely will help on all Scuba Squad missions.

 
ME7 Pro Ear Mask by IST Sports
 ME55 Pro Ear Mask  by IST Sports ME80 Pro Ear Mask by IST

Here's the background on why I obtained this item.

Being a new diver, I still have a horrible time equalizing my ears do to several reasons, on of which is allergies.  It seems that I have no problem equalizing on the surface in the air, but as soon as my head hits water my Eustachian tubes seals up tighter than a frog's you know what.  In addition to the hard time equalizing, I am also prone to frequent ear infections and ear irritation when diving or swimming in the pool, ocean, lake etc.  You name it, it will hurt my ears.  During a pool session for a dive class my allergies were acting up and my ears got very sore do to the forced equalizing.  I immediately headed home and did some research and found the IST Pro Ear Mask.  I immediately ordered one to try.

What makes these masks unique is that they claim to be able to keep your ears dry by the use of ear cups to cover the ears.  With the mask on, you look a little like the Princes Leia from Star Wars.  The ear cups are connected to the mask via a corrugated tube with a one way valve.  The tube allows you to equalize the air space in the ear cup when you equalize your mask.  As you blow air out your nose it travels through the two tubes into the ear cups equalizing them with the outside water pressure.  When you ascend and the air expands it simply escapes out the sides.

You still need to equalize your inner ear spaces just like you were taught in your open water class.  The difference is your ears are now equalizing against air and not water.  

Clearing the mask if it floods requires a little more effort than a standard mask because the ear cups need to be cleared as well as the mask space, but with a little practice it becomes effortless.  You clear the mask and cups the same way as a normal mask but it takes a little more air volume to force the air through the tubes and into the ear cups which forces the water out a small valve located on the bottom of each cup. I had no problem completely removing and flooding the mask at 30 feet, putting it back on and clearing both the mask and ear cups.

I have used the mask to a maximum dept of 65 feet and experienced no problems with the mask or the ear cups leaking. At least not any more than any mask would.  I wouldn't expect to have any issues with this problem within the normal depths of recreational diving.

One interesting side effect of having an air bubble around your ears is your increased ability to hear sounds and locate where they are originating from underwater.  It amazing how many people mumble and talk to themselves underwater and now you'll be able to hear it all.

The verdict on this mask is that is lived up to expectations.  It accomplished its main job with flying colors which was to keep my ears dry, which made for one very happy diver.  I would recommend this mask to any one who suffers from diving related ear problems.

 

PROS:

  • The mask does an excellent job keeping your ears dry.
  •  Being able to equalize your ears against air rather than water is marginally easier - but not a lot.  At least this is my experience.
  • It is very comfortable and relatively easy to put on.
  • The mask does a really good job of keeping your ears warm and as a result the rest of your body.
  • Visibility though the mask is very good.
  • Increased ability to hear and locate the direction of sounds under water.

CONS:  

  •  It can be a little a hard to find.  It took a little searching online to find it and even then I could only get the all black.  Some local dive shops may carry this but I think it would be far and few between. 
  • Special attention must be paid to the silicone skirt around the ear cups to make sure its not folded over or they will leak.  This is easily overcome by having a buddy check it.
  • If the mask floods it is slightly more difficult to clear due to needing to clear the ear cups as well as the mask itself.
  • If you want to use the mask with a hood, the hood needs to be modified with holes for the ear cups or a special two piece hood made by IST Sports needs to be purchased.
  • "Leia" lumps from the ear cups.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2008 23:19
 
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