There are so many different types of great ear plugs which are available to buy in the shops today. Which are really the best ear plugs for swimming? There are many factors to consider when choosing a pair to take in the pool or in the sea. You may want some for only a few uses or you may go swimming on a regular basis; this will affect which are the best type for you. There are two main reasons why people wear ear plugs. The first is to block sound; the second is to block water. In the case of swimming ear plugs the main reason for wearing a pair is to keep water out.
Water can cause damage to the lining of the canal, it washes away the waxy protective layer and causes water logging of the underlying skin. This reduces the protective effect of the squamous epithelium of the canal. This allows bacteria to penetrate into the underlying dermis and cause infection and inflammation. Swimmers' ear is the recognised name for this condition; the medical name is otitis externa. The best varieties are those which will prevent this condition. Foam ear plugs are not suitable at all as they are porous and sponge like so actively absorb water and hold it near to the skin in your ear canal. In this way it actively slows the drying of the ear and may make swimmers' ear worse.
The rough outer surface may cause abrasive damage to the softened water logged skin of the canal. This damage further increases the risk of infection and inflammation. The foam variety are also prone to accumulate dirt, debris, skin cells and earwax. This makes them unhygienic and more likely to cause problems. They can be washed and reused several times but this hardens the memory foam and reduces their life span.
Wax and silicon putty ear plugs are more suitable than foam for swimming. They are more water resistant and stick to the lining of your ear, creating a better watertight seal. However they are both prone to fall out and cause particular problems for people with long hair which tends to get caught in this variety. The lifespan of these types of ear plugs are only a few uses, making the cost per use high as the initial cost of the ear plugs is relatively high. It is also not possible to attach this type of ear plug to your wet suit or to each other using a cord or lanyard. Moulded ear plugs are the most suitable for swimming because they are usually made from hard silicon or thermoplastic. This makes them non-porous, hard-wearing and waterproof. Because they are individually fitted they are more comfortable and highly effective at blocking water.
Some types of molded thermoplastic such as ZenPlugs contain an antibacterial compound which kills disease-causing bacteria. This includes those which commonly cause infections. This makes them very effective at preventing swimmers' ear. It is quicker and less expensive to mold your own at home from a kit, rather than visiting an audiologist. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process. It is definitely worth getting yourself a decent pair of molded ear plugs when you are a regular swimmer. If you calculate the cost per use it will be dramatically lower than repeatedly buying silicon putty or wax versions. This is due to the number of times that they can be reused. They are also far more effective at preventing water entering and protecting you from swimmers ear.