For chlorine addicts and salt water adrenaline junkies, there’s nothing worse than ear infections, water logged ear canals, and the dreaded swimmer’s ear. Some have accepted this as a price of admission to the surf, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Indeed, with the right pair of swimming or surfing ear plugs, you can entirely avoid the various ear maladies and annoyances.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the benefits to swimming and surfing ear plugs, while also outlining some of our best and most popular products. We’ll have special advice for the kids too -- no more crying about sore ears after swimming lessons! 

Why Wear Swimming Ear Plugs? 

A swimmer may elect to wear ear plugs to avoid the hazards of untreated water. If you swim in lakes, estuaries, or any natural body of water, a pair of swimming ear plugs are a key tool to keeping bacteria out of the delicate ear canal. Without a pair of ear plugs, you’re liable to develop Swimmer’s Ear, or, an infection that comes from the rapid reproduction of bacteria. 

If you’ve ever experienced hearing loss, redness, swelling, tenderness, particularly in the inner ear, after a swim, then you’ve had an ear infection. While these can be treated with antibiotics, it’s another trip to the doctor and a lot of discomfort, along with all the associated problems with balance and wellness that come with a disruption to your ears. Remember, the ears help the body balance and orient itself, you’ll definitely hear about it if something is wrong. 

In terms of swimming ear plugs, there are two approaches: reusable ear plugs or disposable silicone ear plugs. Each have their advantages. In the reusable lane, we recommend Alpine SwimSafe. They have acoustic filters, enabling you to maintain conversation, and have the added benefit of floating in the off-chance they’re dislodged. They work to block water from entering the ear and are suitable for individuals with ear tubes. For children, the Alpine Pluggies Kids Earplug is a good solution. It has all the benefits of the adult Alpine model, with a slightly smaller profile appropriate for narrower ear canals. 

Alternatively, you can go with silicone ear plugs. These have the bonus of creating a seal over the ear, using their natural stickiness to adhere to the ear. For many swimmers these are more comfortable, though they may require a swimming headband. Ohropax Aqua Silicone is the right choice here for adults. For kids, Putty Buddies are a really fun option. They come in seven separate colours, allowing your child to express themselves visually. These will both be complimented by a swimmer’s headband, which ensures the ear plugs stay in, while also working to keep your hair out of the way and add to the water blocking functionality of the plugs. The Ear Band-It ® comes in multiple sizes: children through to adult, as well as colours for that all important aesthetic customisation. 

For the surfers

Everyone knows that old hand who still keeps his ears dry with blu-tack, but there’s been a great deal of technological advancement in creating high performance earplug solutions for surfers. But why wear them? The main thing you’re looking to avoid is surfer’s ear. Surfer’s ear is when multiple bony growths called exostoses develop in the ear canal, causing obstructions, as a result of extended exposure to cold water and wind. A properly fitted pair of surfing ear plugs works to avoid this by providing a protective barrier, capable of insulating your sensitive inner from the cold of the water. 

Why is this particularly important? Well, I hate to break it to surfers, but you spend a lot of time being dumped. Anyone who has done a tumble turn in a pool knows, sharp or sudden inversions make it super easy for water to enter the deepest points of the ear and get trapped there, causing chill and allowing bacteria to thrive. The best solution particularly for active surfers is to find a way of keeping your ears safe when you’re being dumped. 

The industry standard here is SurfEars, specifically the recently upgraded 3.0 model. It’s constructed with a unique ‘acoustic mesh’, designed to let sound in while remaining barred against water. It comes shipped with four different sized ear meshes and two different sized frames, each custom for either ear. This allows you to customise your fit for the unique requirements of each individual ear. Each side is colour coordinated to help you tell right from left in the water and there’s a lanyard to help keep them together. 

For young surfers aged 4-12, they’ve even got a SurfEars JUNIOR. They come with a smaller profile and a bright neon green colour profile. With the same benefits as the adult SurfEars, they’re a good way of getting kids introduced safely to the sport, protecting their extra sensitive ears and ensuring a long career in the water. 

Conclusion

While part-time swimmers and occasional surfers may think they’re too casual for a pair of ear plugs, there are huge health benefits to using them, including protection against ear infections and avoiding uncomfortable water logging. The right pair of ear plugs can improve your experience in the pool or ocean, making it more comfortable to do tumble turns or invert yourself. For anyone considering taking up surfing or swimming, particularly in winter, a properly fitted set of plugs should be the minimum requirement for a safe and healthy excursion. 

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