By Laura L. Brady, AuD, CCC-A,
Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center
Summer is a time for kids and their families to enjoy a variety of water activities, which can increase the possibility of contracting swimmer’s ear.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer canal that occurs when water gets trapped, allowing for bacteria and fungus to grow.
Research has explored the use of earplugs for kids in different water environments — chlorinated pool and lake/ocean, and the contaminants found in them. Of all of the tested samples, bath water was found to be the “dirtiest” of the environment tested.
When it comes to surface swimming, there weren’t any real differences noted in the frequency of infections. However, the deeper the head is under water, the more water pressure can push its way into the ear canal and can lead to ear issues. If your child is submerging his/her head underwater or is a diver, their risks are much higher.
Parents who have children with tubes in their ears should refer to their doctor on whether your child should wear earplugs while swimming.
What are my options for swimming ear plugs?
At Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center, we offer custom-molded, brightly-colored, floatable swimming earplugs attached with a breakaway cord. Keep in mind that your little swimmer is likely growing fast, so if he/she requires earplug use for outdoor swimming, be sure to schedule an appointment a few weeks before the start of swim season or your family beach vacation.
Swimming ear plugs must fit snugly to keep water out, however, keep in mind that the snug fit can also block sound. We always advise parents to be extra vigilant while monitoring their child when using swimming ear plugs. He/she may not hear a lifeguard’s warning whistle or another kid yelling “watch out” as they cannonball into the water.
Are there other accessories my child can wear for protection?
Consider using a headband made for swimming. Its stretchy, waterproof material is worn like a headband over the ears and is available in a variety of colors and sizes. It can be used alone or in addition to custom molds to ensure more protection.