5 Best Swimming Earplugs - Feb. 2023 - BestReviews (2023)

Swimming isn’t just a great workout; splashing around in a pool can also be lots of fun. Unfortunately, many avid swimmers deal with ear pain and infections from time to time. In particular, there is an outer-ear infection known as swimmer’s ear that people who spend lots of time in the water are prone to get. The best way to keep your ears protected is with a pair of swimming earplugs.

Swimmer’s ear and other infections generally occur because water gets trapped in the ear after swimming and washes away protective ear wax. That makes it easier for bacteria and germs to enter the ear and cause an infection. Swimming earplugs are designed to prevent water from entering the ears and disrupting the delicate balance of wax inside.

You need the right type of earplugs for the job, however, and there are plenty on the market to choose from. In this shopping guide, we’ll show you the differences between putty earplugs and other types, and we’ll help you choose the earplugs that would serve you best in the water.

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Most manufacturers provide written instructions or a video how-to on their website to demonstrate how to place their swimming earplugs in your ears.

Types of swimming earplugs

Silicone putty swimming earplugs

Silicone putty swimming earplugs are moldable plugs that you shape to fit your ear precisely. Some people like them because they offer a better fit than standard earplugs. And because they can be moulded over and over again, you don’t have to worry about them losing their shape. Silicone putty earplugs are not easy to keep clean, however; the putty has a slightly tacky surface that can attract dust, dirt, and debris. As a result, this type of earplug must be replaced often.

Silicone or rubber swimming earplugs

These pre-moulded earplugs usually have a conical shape that is designed to fit all ears. There may be multiple flanges along the sides to help prevent water from entering the ear. That said, silicone and rubber earplugs do not always offer the snuggest fit. Some users have had issues with this type of earplug falling out while they’re swimming.

Custom-fit swimming earplugs

Custom-fit earplugs may be prescribed by a doctor or another medical professional. A mould of your ear will be taken in order to get the fit just right. Alternatively, you could purchase a do-it-yourself kit that allows you to take your own ear mould and send it back to a company to produce the earplugs.

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Usually made of plastic or silicone, custom earplugs are the most expensive option. They hold up well to repeated use, and they wash well, too.

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Symptoms of swimmer’s ear include pain, itchiness, muffled hearing, and fluid or pus in the ear.



Factors to consider

The lifespan of the earplugs

Some earplugs last longer than others. Plastic, standard silicone, and rubber swimming earplugs are usually the most durable because they wash well. If cared for properly, these earplugs can last an entire swimming season.

Moldable silicone earplugs usually don’t last as long. They may lose their moldability over time, and they are harder to keep clean. In some cases, you may only get three to five uses out of them. However, if you care for them properly, moldable silicone earplugs can last for several weeks.

Set vs. individual pair

You can choose to buy a single set of swimming earplugs or a multi-pack. A multi-pack of earplugs may include anywhere from two to ten pair. Moldable silicone putty earplugs and pre-moulded earplugs of lower quality typically come in sets because they aren’t expected to last as long. Purchasing a set with multiple pairs can be an excellent value because the cost per pair is kept down.

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Swimming earplugs that are sold as a single pair are usually higher in quality and expected to last longer. So, while it may not seem like you’re getting a great value, you theoretically won’t need to buy replacement earplugs as often.

Cord vs. no cord

Because swimming earplugs are small and often clear or translucent in colour, it’s easy to lose them. If they fall out while you’re swimming, you might not be able to find them on the bottom of the pool. To help prevent this problem, some swimming earplugs have a cord that connects the two plugs. Made of waterproof material, the cord typically sits at the back of the neck. If one earplug should fall out, it will still be connected to the other with a cord. If both plugs should fall out, they will be easier to spot in the pool thanks to the cord.

Notably, some swimmers find corded earplugs less comfortable to wear. And if you’re a competitive swimmer, you might find that the cord adds to your resistance in the water, slowing you down. An earplug cord can make it more difficult for a swim cap to fit correctly, too.

Sound-blocking capabilities

Swimming earplugs are designed to create a seal that’s tight enough to prevent water from entering your ear. Because of this, many swimming earplugs are also extremely effective at blocking out sound. Some swimmers like having earplugs that block external sound because they’re better able to concentrate on their swimming. However, if you’re a competitive swimmer who wants to be able to hear directions from your coach — or if you’re buying the plugs for a child who needs to be able to hear adults speaking — you may not want a pair of earplugs with sound-blocking capabilities.

To make your choice easier, some manufacturers clearly mark their earplugs with a noise-reduction rating (NRR) that gives you an idea of how effective they are at blocking sound.


Some swimming earplugs come with a case that can help protect them from dirt, dust, and other debris. Having a designated earplug case can also help prevent you from losing one or both of the earplugs when you’re not swimming by giving you a dedicated spot to keep them.

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For your safety

Individuals who have a perforated eardrum should wear earplugs when they go for a swim to prevent infection.

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Swimming earplug prices

Swimming earplugs vary tremendously in price. You could pay as little as $3 or as much as $350 for a pair.

The most affordable swimming earplugs are made of silicone putty. They typically come in sets of at least three pairs and cost between $3 and $20.

Mid-range swimming earplugs are pre-moulded styles that are made of rubber or silicone. Individual pairs of earplugs usually cost between $4 and $14. Sets of at least two pairs range from $6 to $44.

The most expensive swimming earplugs are customised styles that are purchased either from a medical professional or ordered from a company that processes the mould you take at home. Customised earplugs are sold as individual pairs and usually cost over $100. In fact, you could pay up to $350 for a pair, although the average swimmer does not see a need to do this.

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Expert Tip

Avoid foam earplugs for swimming; this material isn’t effective at keeping water out of the ears.

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  • Most swimming earplugs are fairly affordable. You may want to experiment with a few different types to see which material and style suits you best. When evaluating a pair of swimming earplugs, pay attention to how they feel and how well they block your ears.
  • No matter what type of swimming earplugs you choose, be careful not to push them too deeply into your ears. Doing so could cause injury to your ear canal.
  • If you have trouble with your swimming earplugs coming loose while you swim, try wearing a swim cap and pulling it own over your ears. In some instances, this can help keep the plugs in place.
  • Rinse your swimming earplugs after each use to remove any dirt and chlorine residue. Allow them to air dry thoroughly to prevent mildew growth.

Other products we considered

With so many swimming earplugs to choose from, you should have no trouble finding a pair that fits your swimming routine. The Heqishun Soft Silicone Putty Earplugs are an ideal option if you prefer putty-style earplugs that mould to your ear canal. The pack contains 24 pairs — a great value — and they’re non-allergenic, so even swimmers with sensitive skin can use them.

We also like the Junhua Reusable Silicone Waterproof Earplugs because they’re made of soft silicone that’s very comfortable to wear. A waterproof cord connects these earplugs, so you’re less likely to misplace them.

5 Best Swimming Earplugs - Feb. 2023 - BestReviews (9) 5 Best Swimming Earplugs - Feb. 2023 - BestReviews (10)

Children and teens are especially prone to swimmer’s ear, a condition that may be prevented by wearing watertight swimming earplugs.


Q. How do I put in swimming earplugs?
If you’re using moldable earplugs, gently press them into your ears, allowing them to mould to your shape. If you’re using pre-moulded or custom earplugs, gently push them into your ear the same way you would a pair of earbuds. Don’t push too hard, or you could injure your eardrum.

Q. Can I wash my swimming earplugs?
Pre-molded and custom earplugs can be washed with warm, soapy water using a clean towel or a small, soft-bristled brush. Rinse them thoroughly, and allow them to dry completely before returning them to their case or another storage container. Washing mouldable earplugs usually isn’t recommended, so check the included instructions to see if you can wash them.

Q. Can I use swimming earplugs for diving?
Some swimming earplugs are appropriate for diving, but it depends on how deep you plan to dive. Check the product specifications for the earplugs you’re considering to see how deep you can dive with them before the pressure affects both their ability to keep water out and feel comfortable in your ears.

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What is the highest rating ear plug? ›

Currently, NRR 33 dB is the highest rating for earplugs. These earplugs may block loud noises. A Single Number Rating (SNR) is used in Europe to describe the same rating as NRR. NRR is in use in the U.S. and Canada.

What earplugs do professional swimmers use? ›

Silicone putty earplugs are a popular and effective choice for many competitive swimmers.
  • They are usually made from a mouldable silicone that can be shaped and fitted into the ear.
  • This can provide the swimmers with a watertight custom fit.
Jan 20, 2021

What are the best earplugs to block out? ›

Top Picks Overview
  • Best Overall. QuietOn 3.1 Sleep Earbuds. SHOP NOW. Shop Now.
  • Best Value. Loop Quiet Earplugs. SHOP NOW. Shop Now.
  • Most Comfortable. ZQuiet Earplugs. SHOP NOW. ...
  • Best for Snoring. SoundOff Noise Masking Earbuds. SHOP NOW. ...
  • Best Fit. Swanwick Earplugs. SHOP NOW. ...
  • Best Active Noise Canceling. Bose Sleepbuds II. SHOP NOW.
Dec 16, 2022

What can I put in my ear to stop water getting in? ›

Use a large ball of cotton wool in the bowl of the ear, smeared with a bit of Vaseline. This can be thrown away each time, and is much cleaner than ear plugs for regular use. Angling the affected side downwards has also been shown to help.

What hearing protection Do Navy Seals use? ›

3M™ PELTOR™ Solutions for today's modern warfighter have been designed for use in combat and combat support operations, specifically for use with firearms and ballistic combat helmets.

How do I know what size earplugs to use? ›

Each ear should be sized individually. When working with two-sized E•A•R brand foam earplugs, persons with larger earcanals (L and XL) should wear the larger-sized products; those with smaller earcanals (S and XS) should wear the smaller-sized products.

Are High Fidelity earplugs worth it? ›

High fidelity earplugs are a great option for construction workers. They are able to reduce the noise from machinery and power tools without blocking external noise. This is an important safety feature, ensuring workers can always hear what is happening around them.

Do most swimmers wear ear plugs? ›

Earplugs aren't as common as goggles for swimming, however, they're just as useful and can prevent infection. Swimmer's ear is a common ear infection caused by water remaining in the outer ear canal. It creates a moist environment, perfect for bacterial growth, resulting in irritating and painful infections.

Are there any earplugs that completely block out sound? ›

So, to summarize: earplugs that shut out all noise do not exist. So, soundproof earplugs that shut out all noise do not exist. But there are good earplugs that attenuate noise. Some earplugs attenuate more noise than others.

Is there something better than earplugs? ›

For moderate noise, sleep headphones and sleep earbuds together with a white noise app are also good option. Earmuffs are very effective noise blockers and an option for back sleepers.

Why do my earplugs keep falling out? ›

If your ear canal is 'too big,' then there's nothing for the earbuds to sit against, so they'll fall out very easily,” Dr. Voigt. “And if the ear canal is 'too small,' the earbud won't be able to go in deep enough to fit properly, so it can pop out.”

Can you put rubbing alcohol in your ear to get water out? ›

Try rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

This can help dry out the ear canal. Use caution, however. Don't use alcohol drops if you have a perforated eardrum, as this will cause severe pain, and high levels could be toxic to the ear.

How does vinegar get rid of swimmer's ear? ›

White Vinegar Rinses:
  1. Rinse the ear canals with half-strength white vinegar. ...
  2. Start by having your child lie down with the painful ear upward.
  3. Fill the ear canal.
  4. Wait 5 minutes. ...
  5. Do the other side.
  6. Continue twice a day until the ear canal returns to normal.
Dec 30, 2022

Does hydrogen peroxide prevent swimmer's ear? ›

Hydrogen Peroxide

But hydrogen or carbamide peroxide can be safe preventative measures for swimmer's ear. Rinsing your ears with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution or with carbamide peroxide ear drops (Debrox) can help remove wax that can trap water in your ear.

Does hydrogen peroxide clean ears? ›

As one of the most effective ways to remove excess wax, hydrogen peroxide is best able to remove stubborn ear wax from inside your ear canal. Using a dropper, place a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water (equal parts) into your ear as you lay on one side.

Does hydrogen peroxide dissolve ear wax? ›

The medical term for earwax is cerumen, and hydrogen peroxide is a cerumenolytic, which means that it can soften, break down, and dissolve earwax. Ear drops can contain a variety of forms of hydrogen peroxide. A common type is carbamide hydroxide, which adds oxygen to the wax, causing it to bubble.

Can I put Vaseline in my ear? ›

A cotton ball covered in Vaseline should be placed over the opening of the ear canal to create a water tight seal. The cotton should also not be placed deep into the ear canal in order to avoid further irritation to the inflamed skin. A dry cotton ball is not sufficient.

Did the Navy use 3M earplugs? ›

Who Used Combat Arms Earplugs? Aearo/3M held an exclusive military contract for more than 10 years. They supplied ear protection to millions of soldiers in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.

What is the most commonly used hearing protection? ›

Simple foam ear plugs that reduce the amount of noise entering the ear are the most commonly available type of HPD. Level-dependent ear plugs have small filters that enable soft noises to be conveyed with full strength while eliminating any high frequency or impulse noise.

What is class 5 hearing protection? ›

Once tested, hearing protectors get a rating from Class 1 to 5, where Class 5 gives the highest protection from noise exposure. (The actual measure is maximum 8-hour time-weighted average noise exposure.)

How far should you push in ear plugs? ›

Hold the earplug in with your finger until it expands to fill the ear canal. Your voice will sound muffled when the plug has made a good seal.

How do you know if your ear plug is too big? ›

If the earplugs are too large, they are unlikely to sit deep enough in the ear canal, so the specified protection level cannot be achieved. They'll also feel uncomfortable.

How do you know if your earplugs are too far in? ›

Gently tap the tragus of the ear. Your earplugs have the right fit for your ears when you hear the so-called 'bass drum effect'. If the earplugs go too deep in the ear canal, the earplugs are too small. If the earplug protrudes too far and the third flange is fully visible, you need a smaller size.

Are foam earplugs better than high fidelity? ›

While foam earplugs can help you reduce hearing damage, filtered earplugs can highly benefit you in terms of quality protection. Issues you can prevent with the use of high-fidelity earplugs are hearing impairment, hearing loss, permanent ear problems such as tinnitus, and other issues.

How long do eargasm earplugs last? ›

How long do Eargasm Earplugs last? Most of our customers see a usage-period of up to and over 1-3 years. As long as you clean them frequently and store them in your carrying case, you can expect to see the same average timespan!

How many dB should ear plugs be? ›

85 Decibels (dB) - the "Action Level" where hearing protection is required. 90 dB - the OSHA, 8 hour average exposure limit. 100 dB - exposures longer than 15 minutes are not recommended.

Do Olympic swimmers wear earplugs? ›

For the most part, Olympic swimmers (and every other swimmer!) can swim without using earplugs or covering their ears. That is because the ear canal is designed to not allow water past the eardrum.

How many times a day should you use swimmers ear? ›

Ear drops typically are used several times a day for 7–10 days. If swelling narrows the opening into the ear, the doctor may clean the ear and insert a sponge called a wick into the ear canal. It will carry ear drops into the ear more effectively.

Should ears be covered while swimming? ›

Wear a swimming cap and ear plugs

The key to protecting your ears is to keep them as dry as possible. So always wear a swimming cap, and make sure you have ear plugs that fit you properly. Most swimming experts recommend silicone or conical ear plugs, over foam ones, which are designed to keep out sound.

Why does my ear hurt when I swim deep? ›

As divers descend down towards the bottom of the sea, the water pressure on their eardrums increases. This pressure against the eardrums causes the symptoms of ear squeeze. Starting with a feeling of fullness, it can become quickly very uncomfortable and dangerous as the eardrums swell and bulge.

Why does my ear hurt after swimming in a pool? ›

Redness of the ear canal, ear pain, draining fluids and discharge of pus are signs of swimmer's ear (otitis externa). Untreated, the infection can spread to nearby tissue and bone. Swimmer's ear is an infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head.

Why do my ears hurt while swimming? ›

Too much moisture in the ear can irritate the skin in the canal, letting bacteria or fungi get in. It happens most often in summertime, when swimming is common. But you don't have to swim to get swimmer's ear. Anything that injures the skin of the ear canal can lead to an infection.

How do you put in earplugs without falling out? ›

Soft rubber cones: Carefully insert the smaller end into the ear canal and gently push the earplug in to tighten. Silicone Putty Plugs: Roll the 'putty' into a ball, place over the ear hole and press. The putty will just enter the ear hole, compress and fill the area around the ear hole blocking it off.

Are loop earplugs worth it? ›

If you're looking to block out sound on a regular basis, definitely! I live a quiet life alone in suburban and rural spaces and still feel better wearing Loop Earplugs than I do without. If I was still living in New York City, they would be a miracle product.

How many times can you reuse silicone ear plugs? ›

The earplugs may be re-used until they are dirty or no longer sticky (up to 5 uses). Keeping your hands and ears clean and dry prior to handling/applying the earplugs will help prolong the usable life of the earplugs.

Are foam or silicone earplugs better? ›

Conclusion. Foam earplugs are the gold standard if you are looking for maximum noise reduction. For low-frequency noise, in particular, they are much more effective than moldable wax and silicone putty earplugs.

Are AirPods as good as earplugs? ›

If they pick up background noise, the AirPods Pro will play opposite frequencies to cancel it out. Think of them as high-tech earplugs. You'll hear less ambient noise for a purer listening experience, whether you're enjoying music, audiobooks or podcasts – ideal for loud situations like trains, planes and city streets.

Why do my ears hurt after using earplugs? ›

Earwax compaction and infections

Earwax guards the delicate parts of the ear from dirt, dust and small particles and pushes them back out of the ear canal. An incorrect use of earplugs can block this process and consequently cause earwax compaction. A build-up of hardened earwax can be uncomfortable and even painful.

Can you wash and reuse earplugs? ›

Earplugs should be cleaned by removing all earwax and contaminants prior to reinsertion. Reusable earplugs may be washed in mild soap and warm water and allowed to air dry. Do not use any form of solvent, alcohol, and solvent and/or alcohol-based cleaners to clean earplugs. Washing may be repeated several times.

Can you still get hearing damage with earplugs? ›

While earplugs are designed to protect the structures in the inner ear, there are some cases where the plugs can contribute to hearing problems. Users should be aware of the potential dangers of wearing earplugs, such as: Impacted ear wax.

Can earplugs prevent swimmer's ear? ›

To reduce the risk of swimmer's ear: DO keep your ears as dry as possible. Use a bathing cap, ear plugs, or custom-fitted swim molds when swimming.

Should you wear earplugs if you have swimmer's ear? ›

During treatment, it's important to keep the ear dry and avoid swimming or getting the ear wet in the shower or bathtub. Coat a cotton ball with Vaseline and plug the ears during a shower or use ear plugs, Lin says.

How do professional swimmers protect their ears? ›

Wear a tight fitting silicon swimming cap. This reduces the amount of water entering your ears. More protection can be achieved by using ear plugs.

Do professional swimmers wear ear plugs? ›

For a professional such as Phelps, who is in a major competition like the Olympics where not participating is not an option, ear plugs would be prescribed to prevent worsening. Despite his theoretical susceptibility to swimmer's ear, you do not hear Phelps suffering from it during major events.

Why does my ear hurt after wearing earplugs? ›

Earwax compaction and infections

Earwax guards the delicate parts of the ear from dirt, dust and small particles and pushes them back out of the ear canal. An incorrect use of earplugs can block this process and consequently cause earwax compaction. A build-up of hardened earwax can be uncomfortable and even painful.

What makes swimmer's ear worse? ›

Anything that injures the skin of the ear canal can lead to an infection. Dry skin or eczema, scratching the ear canal, ear cleaning with cotton swabs, or putting things like bobby pins or paper clips into the ear can all increase the risk of otitis externa.

What is the white stuff in swimmer's ear? ›

Outer ear infection

Redness of the ear canal, ear pain, draining fluids and discharge of pus are signs of swimmer's ear (otitis externa). Untreated, the infection can spread to nearby tissue and bone. Swimmer's ear is an infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head.

Can earplugs damage your ears? ›

Earplugs are generally safe. However, they do come with a few potential side effects, especially if you use them regularly. Over time, earplugs can push earwax back into your ear, causing a buildup. This can cause several problems, including temporary hearing loss and tinnitus.

How does vinegar prevent swimmer's ear? ›

If swimmer's ear is a frequent problem, rinse the ear canals after swimming. Use a few drops of a white vinegar-rubbing alcohol rinse. Use equal parts of each to make the rinse. Lake water has the greatest risk.

What are the pros and cons of swimming ear plugs? ›

The advantage of custom swim plugs is that they are high quality, comfortable and last longer than drugstore plugs. They are reusable and washable for better hygiene. A disadvantage to custom-fit swim ear plugs is that they are more expensive.

Are silicone ear plugs safe for swimming? ›

When it comes to earplugs for swimming, silicone earplugs are your best option. One final note on earplug safety: You should never dive while wearing your earplugs, as water pressure could push them too far into your ear canals.


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