Swimming with Ear Plugs
Article written by Niki Jamieson
As a competitive swimmer growing up, I always thought that ear plugs were for those swimmers who just didn’t want to put in the time to learn how to swim the right way. I thought that ears naturally built up a force field against the water over time and you had to put in the time to reap the benefits. People who wore these crazy things were just swim-wannabees.
When I turned 35 my outlook changed (slow learner). I found that I was getting more and more ear infections and ear pain. I worked with kids and thought I was either catching colds from them or I was training to hard and my immune system was a bit low — Never was it the water’s fault.
Week after week I was having ear pain until I went to the doctor’s to be told again that I had yet another ear infection. Was my dear old friend, the water, beginning to turn on me?
YES, and there was nothing I could do about it. The force field was breached forever and there were no techniques for keeping water out of my ears except for….yes, ear plugs.
So the first thing I did was go to CVS and pick up neon pink ear plugs — bad idea! After a failed swim attempt I read the package and found that they are for blocking sound, not water. Stupid, I know.
I then went back, started reading packages and trying out products. There weren’t many options. Here’s what I found:
Wax/Slicone Ear Plugs I’d give these a 3/10. After sitting in a cold swim bag, they had to be kneaded in order to be pliable enough to form a good fit in my ears. They’re kind of messy and don’t last very long. I found that they’d gather lint, which is pretty gross, and if they fell out of the package they acted like chewed gum in my bag. The effectiveness of these bad boys depended on how well I got it to form in my ears. Some days I’d get a great seal and other days I’d spend more time adjusting them than swimming.
From there I went online to find out what the swimmers were actually using. Here’s what I found:
Zoggs Aqua PlugzI’d give these a 6/10. They come in a case so I can’t lose them. There is no kneading like the wax ear plugs; they’re ready out of the package. They block the water great, are soft and comfortable. The only problem I had was getting them into my ears properly. Most of the time, they went right on with no problem but there is a circular part that falls on the outside of the ear that is sometimes hard to line up. If it doesn’t line up, I would get water in my ears and spend more time trying to adjust them.
Hearos Ear Plugs – I’d give these a 8/10. They come in a case and are ready to use out of the package. Unlike the Zoggs, they block the water better but are not soft and comfortable because they are made of a harder plastic. Another big difference from the Zoggs is that there is no circular piece that fits in the outside of the ear. These swim plugs are arrow-shaped, making it easier to insert and get to the reason why you are at the pool — to SWIM!
My ear plug swim plan now is to rotate between the two different brand ear plugs. Generally, if I can’t get the Zoggs in on the first or second try, I go for the Hearos. I’ll wear those for a few days until the inside of my ears get a bit sore and switch back to the Zoggs. Complicated, but it works.
Pros and Cons of Wearing Ear Plugs:
- Pros – Keeps water out of ears. No more trips to the doctor.
- Pros – Makes for a nice quiet swim during pool practices.
- Cons – They are sound-proof. You can’t hear a feeekin’ thing with them in your ears including lifeguards, coaches and fellow swimmers.
- Cons – They are sound-proof. They can be slightly dangerous in an event because you need all of your senses swimming in a large group for both instructional and emergency purposes. You’ll have to be extra aware if you decide to wear them in events.
Do you have any ear plug solutions?
Email us your recommendations.
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