How to Choose Ear Plugs

January 22, 2024

For people with sensitive ears or especially-narrow ear canals, trapped water can lead to frequent and painful ear infections. Swimming ear plugs — if they fit — can stop water from getting in your ear canals as you swim, thereby preventing ear infections. Ear plug options are the same for children and adults, although children may need a little extra assistance when putting their ear plugs in. This guide explains what to look for when choosing ear plugs for swimming.

Ear Plug Styles

First of all, make sure that the ear plugs are designed for use in the water. Noise-cancelling ear plugs are not designed for swimming and will not create a sufficient, watertight seal.

  • Flanged: Flanged ear plugs are a universal-fit, conical shape with multiple flanges that act as barriers against water. They are typically less expensive than other models, and are thus a good starting point for those new to swimming ear plugs.
  • Ergonomic: Ergonomic ear plugs are shaped to fit snugly inside the ear and lay flat against the outer ear, more so than flanged models. Each pair comes with one plug shaped specifically for the right ear and one for the left.
  • Moldable: Moldable silicone putty that is applied to the outer ear canal to form a comfortable, custom-fitting, waterproof seal, regardless of ear shape.

Ear Plug Materials

Ear plug material options include moldable silicone, silicone, and soft plastics.

  • If you are allergic to latex, make sure that the model you choose is latex-free. The majority of earplugs are, but a handful of brands do use some latex.
  • Soft, moldable silicone is a hypo-allergenic and reusable ear plug material option.
  • If you are a frequent swimmer, look for earplugs made of a material that can be reused many times, or earplug sets come with multiples to account for loss.

Ear Plug Tips

Consider purchasing and wearing a silicone or latex swim cap pulled over your ears as another layer of protection against water. You may also want to buy ear drops or ear-drying tools to use after your swim to remove any water that managed to get past your ear plugs.

Remember that ear plugs come in many different styles, each with their own benefits. Since they are fairly inexpensive, don't be afraid to try out multiple styles to see which works best for you. Having the correct fit and a watertight seal is worth the extra time, money, and effort of trying several models.

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