Do Swimming Ear Plugs Stop Water Getting In Ears?


a swimmer fits swimming earplugs under his swimming hat

Having suffered from swimmer’s ear, I appreciate the importance of keeping water out of my ears, or more specifically, ensuring that my ears are 100% dry after my swim.

As a general rule, some swimming ear plugs can stop water from getting into the ear and can keep the ear canal dry. However, as all our ears differ in shape and size, experimentation is needed to find a swimming ear plug that works for you.

From my experience, if you really want a 100% water seal, you are going to have to try a few different types of swimming earplugs.

Your best choice to keep your ears dry will be a silicone putty that you can shape to completely cover the outer ear, but you may need to cover this with a headband and swimming cap to keep the putty in place and add extra barriers to water ingress.

You might be thinking that swimming ear plugs have one job and that is to keep your ears 100% dry, but I have yet to find a manufacturer that will categorically state this. You will find terminology such as “our earplugs help to keep water out of your ears”.

So if you are looking to keep your ears dry or best protected from the pool water, what are your options?

In this article I will cover:

  • Do any swimming ear plugs stop water from getting in ears?
  • How do you keep your ears dry when swimming?
  • What is the best option to protect a child’s ear when swimming?
  • How do you prevent swimmer’s ear?

Do Any Swimming Ear Plugs 100% Stop Water Getting In Ears?

As a whole, swimming ear plugs alone will not 100% prevent water from getting into your ears as you swim unless you are lucky enough to have found a perfect fit or match for your ears.

There may be many reasons you want to keep your ears dry while swimming, but the most common reason swimmers want to keep their ears dry is to prevent swimmer’s ear.

Swimmer’s ear is a bacterial infection that is caused when contaminated pool water remains trapped in the ear. The warm, dark and moist conditions of your ear is a paradise in which bacteria grow. [source]

According to leading medical resources, including Very Well Health, if your ears are dry, then germs and bacteria cannot grow, thus preventing swimmer’s ear. [source]

As a result, dry ears equate to a very low probability of getting swimmer’s ear.

Many swimmers purchase swimming ear plugs expecting them to stop water from getting in their ears only to learn that keeping water out of your ears while swimming is very difficult to do.

The main reason it is near impossible to design a universal swimming ear plug that will 100% keep water out of your ears and fit everyone is that all our ears are different.

Not only can ear shape and size differ amongst adults, but according to leading experts, the two ears we have may be different from each other. [source]

So you can get vastly different reviews and advice on the same swimming ear plugs. Some swimmers will swear by a certain ear plug shape and brand, while another group might find them rubbish.

If you look at swimming ear plug reviews on Amazon, it mostly tends to be five stars (I love them) or one star (I hate them). There is very little middle ground with swimming ear plugs.

So what steps can you take to find the best swimming ear plugs for you and keep your ears dry while swimming?

How Do You Keep Your Ears Dry While Swimming?

Although swimming ear plugs will not keep your ears 100% dry unless you are lucky enough to find a perfect fit, all swimming ear plugs stop the ear from becoming overly saturated.

If you are the type of swimmer that is prone to having water trapped in your ears, then swimming ear plugs can help reduce this and stop your ears from being constantly saturated by pool water.

Here is a guide on how you can help to keep your ears dry while swimming:

1. Experiment With Different Swimming Ear Plug Types

There are three main types of swimming ear plug designs currently on the market:

Which ear plug design do you like the look of? A good place to start is to pick a pair of swimming earplugs that appeal to you.

For example, I hate the look of the spearhead design and I cannot imagine sticking them deeply into my ears. As a result, this type is terrible for me as they are uncomfortable, hardly work, and keep falling out. But if you like the look of them, they are a very affordable option.

Start with what you think will work.

2. Try Mouldable Silicone Putty

If ever a swimming earplug came close to a universal design that works for everyone, it is the mouldable silicone putty type.

These come in balls of silicone that you can shape and form to cover your outer ear.

The great thing about this design is that they are super comfortable and give an excellent fit.

You need to warm these up by rolling them in your hands before inserting them into your ear. This will help the silicone become softer and make a better seal with your ear.

The downside is that they don’t have their own carry case, so you need to wash them well after every use and store them in a dry and safe place so they don’t pick up dust and dirt.

3. Wear A Swim Headband

If you are serious about keeping water out of your ears, a great idea is to wear a swim headband with your earplugs in place.

A swim headband can be a simple latex band that fits around your forehead and over your ears.

Sometimes, swimmers use a swim headband alongside a swimming cap to keep their hair dryer as it helps form a water seal.

As well as helping to keep water out of your ears, swim headbands can go over your ears and keep your swimming earplugs in place.

Many swimmers look for swimming ear plugs that will not fall out, but if you wear a swim headband, you don’t need to worry about losing your earplugs.

4. Wear A Swimming Cap

With your earplugs and swim head band in place, the last layer you can add to keep water out of your ears is to wear a swimming cap.

There is much debate about whether a swimming cap should cover your ears (and I’ve looked at this in more depth in another blog). In a nutshell, it is a matter of personal preference.

If you really want to keep your ears dry and safe, wearing earplugs with a swim headband with a swim cap will give you the best chance of success.

These three barriers together can help keep your ears 100% dry as you swim.

What Is The Best Option To Protect A Child’s Ear When Swimming?

Anyone with a narrow ear canal is more susceptible to swimmer’s ear. As a result, child swimmers can often suffer from swimmer’s ear as they have smaller ear canals.

It can be very difficult to protect a child’s ear from the water. If they are regular swimmers, swimming earplugs are often used.

If you accompany your child to the pool, you can help fit earplugs, but once the child is at swimming lessons or with their friends alone, it can be difficult for children to fit their own swimming earplugs properly.

When getting swimming earplugs for children, it is often best to get cheaper ones that can be easily replaced when they get lost.

In addition, the cheaper silicone ones can be easier to rinse and clean and often come with their own carry case, making them easier for children to wash and care for.

Although silicone putty is a great and affordable option for child swimmers, they need to wash them carefully after each use. If not, discard your earplugs.

To really protect a child’s ear from water ingress a combination of swimming earplugs, with a swim headband with a swimming cap, is the best option.

This will reduce the ingress of water to the ear, plus the added support of the swim headband and swim cap will help keep the swimming earplugs in place.

Do Scuba Divers Wear Ear Plugs?
Do Scuba Divers Wear Ear Plugs?

However, if children are attending swimming lessons, they cannot hear the lifeguard or swim instructor as easily with these three layers protecting their ears.

Always check that a child can hear in the water so they can stay alert to danger and the lifeguard’s whistle.

More importantly, teach your child how to dry their ears thoroughly after each swim. If they can leave the pool with dry ears, their chances of ear infection will be reduced.

How Do You Prevent Swimmers Ear?

The best way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to ensure you shower with fresh water after your swim, and dry your ears thoroughly. Prevention is better than cure.

Do not leave the pool locker room if your ears are wet or if you feel like there is water in your ears.

Since I learnt that keeping your ears dry was a key component in preventing swimmer’s ear, I have not had swimmer’s ear.

When I suffered from swimmer’s ear, I would rush to work after a swim and not pay attention to the water in my ears.

Thinking the water in my ears would just “work its way out” was a terrible strategy! Now, I will thoroughly wash and dry my ears after each swim.

I still wear swimming earplugs to reduce how saturated my ears become and to stop any larger debris from getting into my ears, particularly if I am swimming outdoors in my backyard pool.

To learn more about swimming ear plugs, including how to care for them, here is a more detailed article, “Do Swim Ear Plugs Work?”

Final Thoughts

It is hard to keep water 100% out of your ears as you swim.

It is possible, but you either need to get lucky and find a perfectly fitted pair of swim earplugs or experiment with a variety of types that are on the market to find a good fit.

For swimmers who want to keep their ears 100% dry, their biggest concern is swimmer;s ear. This is a nasty bacterial infection that occurs in the ear due to pool water remaining in the ear. The dark and moist environment of your ear is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

I have found that combining swimming ear plugs with a swimming headband and a swim cap is a great way to fully protect your ears from the water, but be warned you cannot hear as clearly in the pool.

For children or adults with narrow ear canals, keeping your ears dry is essential and ensuring that your ears are fully dried after your swim is one of the most effective ways to prevent swimmer’s ear.

Anything we can do to protect our precious hearing is worth the time and investment.

Happy swimming!

Louise Byrne

Hi, I am Louise and I am obsessed with swimming. I spend my free time in the water or getting ready for my next water adventure.

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