Top Tips; Triathlon Training Kit

Top Tips; Triathlon Training Kit

Top Tips; Triathlon Training Kit

Training for an iron man triathlon can be tedious. Hours in the pool might be boring with nothing to listen to.  Why not treat yourself to a waterproof swimming MP3 player and a matching pair of waterproof earphones?

You can hear your favourite cookery or Buddhist podcasts, loud music or audio-books to keep you going.  Choosing music is important. Make sure you select tunes which drive your training and motivate you, particularly if you are working towards your personal best.  You can can different playlists for different occasions.

If you're not listening it is a good idea to wear your ear plugs for swimming to stop you getting ear infections.  Get yours connected on a string so you do not lose them.  ZenPlugs Moulded Swimming Ear Plugs are perfect because they are separately moulded to your ears from a kit. This makes them less time consuming and less expensive than visiting the audiologist to have your moulds made.  They are even antibacterial, killing the germs which cause ear infections. 

Swimmer's ear often starts with some mild itching and soreness. Take preventative steps at this stage before it progresses to a full-blown ear infection.  Wearing swimming ear plugs bought from can really help.

The incidence of deafness in triathletes and surfers is increasing due to improvements in wetsuit design. 'Surfers Ear' or cranial exostosis is caused by cold air and water entering the ear causing bony outgrowths to grow in the ear canal. This gradually closes it over and causes deafness. The higher performance wetsuits of the last few years allow surfers to spend longer in the water in colder conditions. This makes surfers' ear much more likely, as well as more severe.

According to Wong and colleagues (1) there is a direct relationship between the occurrence and severity of surfers' ear and the amount of time spent in the water. According to their work 16% of avid surfers have narrowing which is severe enough to cause significant hearing loss.

The narrowing can be treated with an unpleasant operation where the bone is either drilled or chiseled away but this doesn't stop the condition recurring if the necessary precautions of wearing a cap and surfers' ear plugs aren't followed. Ear plugs for surfing prevent the cooling effect in the ear canal and a neoprene cap prevents the cooling of the mastoid bone behind the ear which is also associated with the development of the condition.

As well as deafness, surfers' ear can cause repeated ear infections because the narrowing of the ear canal slows the evaporation of water and increases water-logging. This damages the skin and allows bacteria to enter resulting in otitis externa, also known as swimmers' ear.

Repeated exposure to sea water washes away protective oils which are naturally present in the skin, allowing the water to reach the surface of the skin; squamous epithelium. The water softens the skin, and eventually penetrates, carrying bacteria with it. It colonizes the skin, causing external ear infection which shows itself as itching, redness, soreness, pain and discharge. This is also known as 'swimmers ear' or otitis externa and is easily treated with ear drops containing a combination of steroids, antibiotics such as gentamicin and an antifungal such as acetic acid (vinegar).

Left untreated otitis externa can spread and cause otitis media, middle ear infection. This tends to be more painful than otitis externa due to the pressure that builds up behind the ear drum. It can temporarily or permanently affect hearing and is more likely to cause significant discharge than external ear infection. It is treated with ear drops and antibiotics taken by mouth.

References: (1) Prevalence of external auditory canal exostoses in surfers'. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1999;125:969-972.

Dr Toby Bateson