How to Keep Water Out of Ears While Swimming

Swimming is mostly a fun activity, but one thing that can really put a damper on the experience is getting water in your ears. If you’ve ever experienced that annoying sloshing sensation (or, God forbid, gotten an ear infection), then you know how important keeping water out of your ears while swimming is.

Some effective strategies to help you keep water out of your ears are wearing swimmer’s earplugs, and possibly even wearing it with a swim cap or waterproof headband over your ears. Furthermore, knowing the proper techniques for swimming and properly drying your ears after swimming can reduce your chances of getting an ear infection. 

Keep reading on to learn how to properly implement these tips so you’ll be able to focus on perfecting your strokes and having fun in the water, without worrying about annoying ear issues.

Best Ways to Keep Water Out of Ears While Swimming

Keeping water out of your ears can be a challenge. In this section, we’ll cover several methods to help you avoid swimmer’s ear and protect your hearing.

Swimming Earplugs

One of the most effective ways to keep water out of your ears is by using swimming earplugs. Choose a pair that fits comfortably and creates a tight seal in your ear canal. Silicone putty earplugs are particularly effective as they mold to the shape of your ears, ensuring a secure fit.

However, if you plan on diving underwater with earplugs on, then you need vented earplugs with a small air hole. This hole is too small for water to enter in, but large enough that you can equalize your ears when you perform the Valsalva maneuver (pinching your nostrils and then trying to exhale through them).

Swim Caps

Though they aren’t designed to keep your hair, let alone ears dry, swim caps are surprisingly effective at keeping water out of your ears while swimming. Obviously, you have to make sure to pull it over your ears for this to work.

You can find specifically designed swim caps that come with ear pockets that provide a waterproof seal over your ears. You can choose between a variety of materials and styles to suit your personal preferences.

If you find swim caps alone to be ineffective at keeping water out of your ears, then you can wear swimming earplugs and a swim cap with ear pockets for double the ear protection.

Waterproof Headbands

Waterproof headbands, also known as swimming ear bands, wrap around your head and cover your ears, providing a barrier that keeps water out. They are comfortable to wear and come in different styles and sizes.

Again, just like with swim caps, if you find the headband alone to be insufficient for keeping water out of your ears, then wear swimming earplugs with it.

Proper Swimming Techniques

Using proper swimming techniques is crucial in keeping water out of your ears. For example, when swimming freestyle, make sure to rotate your body and turn your head to breathe, rather than lifting your head straight up. This helps minimize the amount of water that can enter your ears. Avoid underwater flips and tumbles, as they can force water into your eardrums.

Preventing Swimmer’s Ear

Proper Ear Cleaning and Drying Post-Swim

Keeping your ears clean and dry after swimming is crucial to prevent swimmer’s ear. When you’re done swimming, gently dry your ears with a towel and use a hair dryer on the lowest setting and at a distance of at least one foot away from your ear to evaporate any leftover moisture in the ear canal.

To maintain a healthy amount of ear wax, avoid using cotton swabs, fingers, or tissues to clean inside your ears. Excessive ear wax removal can increase the risk of infection by eliminating the protective barrier provided by the wax. Instead, you can clean your ears occasionally with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution to remove earwax that can trap water in your ear.

Additional Ear Drying Solutions

Here are some more methods you can try out if the above solutions don’t work:

  • Rubbing Alcohol and White Vinegar Mixture: Mix a solution of equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar and apply a few drops in each ear after swimming. This helps to maintain a proper pH level in the ear canal, which can prevent bacterial and fungal growth.
  • Ear Drying Drops: If you’d rather have a drying agent all prepared for you, you can just buy an ear drying eardrop and follow the instructions on the label to evaporate the water in your ears post-swim.
  • Ear Blow Dryer: Using a hair dryer to dry your ears can be very clunky and dangerous if done wrong. Thankfully, you can find special ear blow dryers that can fit in your ear canal and blow soothing air to speed up the ear drying process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use cotton swabs or cotton balls to keep water out of my ears?

You should avoid using cotton swabs or cotton balls to keep water out of your ears. Cotton swabs may push wax further into your ear canal and increase the risk of infection. Cotton balls might not effectively prevent water from entering the ears and are not designed for swimming purposes.

Can regular earplugs keep water out of my ears?

Regular earplugs may not be the best choice for swimming. It’s better to use swimmer’s ear plugs specifically designed for this purpose, such as silicone putty ones, which provide a better seal and keep water out more effectively.

Can wearing earplugs while swimming cause an ear infection?

Wearing earplugs while swimming does not typically cause ear infections. In fact, they can help prevent water from entering your ears and reduce the risk of swimmer’s ear. Just be sure to clean and dry your earplugs regularly to avoid any buildup of bacteria.

Can I swim with a perforated eardrum or ear infection?

Swimming with a perforated eardrum or ear infection can be risky and could potentially worsen the condition. While you can certainly wear swimming earplugs with a perforated eardrum, it should only be to keep water out while you are showering or bathing and not swimming.

How effective are over-the-counter products for removing water from the ear?

Over-the-counter products designed for removing water from the ear can be effective when used correctly. However, they are intended to reduce the likelihood of ear infections by getting rid of the moist environment that bacteria thrive in. Once you already have an ear infection, do not rely on the over-the-counter varieties and use prescription swimming ear drops to treat your ear infection.

Is it safe to swim with ear tubes, and what precautions should be taken?

Swimming with ear tubes can be safe, but it’s essential to take precautions to prevent water from entering the ears such as by wearing custom earplugs and a swimming cap or consult your healthcare provider for additional recommendations specific to your situation.