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NPSF™ -- Are you trying to find the best ear plugs for protection against water? (And wind?)

To find the best water protection ear plugs for you and your specific needs, we suggest that you consider the following factors:

  • Age of the User: For babies and children under 4, we highly recommend silicone putty.
     
  • Indoor vs Outdoor Use: Use moldable wax indoors only. Other options can work anywhere.
     
  • Clear Hearing: The need to hear sounds around you during use, or not. Most water ear plugs also block sound. Surfing ear plugs (and a few others) let you hear well while still blocking out water and wind. Look for "surf" or "surfing" in the product title.
     
  • Frequency and Duration of Use: Custom ear plugs for swimming offer a better value if you use them often and for a long time. Otherwise, universal fit options are more economical.

To protect against water intrusion into the ear, you have several excellent options: silicone putty, moldable wax, universal fit pre-formed silicone (generally called "reusable" ear plugs), and custom ear plugs. Each of these choices has its benefits and limitations, which will depend on your specific issues and the unique attributes of the individual being equipped. Every pair of ears is different.

What to Try... ...And Why:
Moldable Silicone Putty Ear Plugs Silicone putty ear plugs are extremely popular for swimming and can be reused several times. The limiting factor is loss of tackiness due to skin oil that builds up with each use, or contamination from dropping them on the floor or on the ground. Silicone putty ear plugs cannot be cleaned, but at around $1 a pair or less, they offer a very economical, universal fit alternative. The one important negative of silicone putty ear plugs for swimming (which may actually be a positive in other situations) is that they block about 75% of the sound you can hear with them in your ears. When swimming for exercise, that might be fine, but you may want your kids in the pool to be able to hear you call to them - and surfers most definitely need more hearing acuity than silicone putty can provide. Another minor negative with silicone putty ear plugs is that they cannot be effectively equipped with a cord to help prevent dropping them, unlike most other kinds of swimming ear plugs. A great solution to this, especially for kids, is to add a swimming ear band such as Ear Band-It. Ear bands keep the silicone putty ear plugs securely in place, and they have the added benefit of helping to control long hair while swimming.
Moldable Wax Ear Plugs Wax is one of the traditional materials ear plugs have been made out of for ages. Moldable wax makes a good water seal in the ear, but be warned: wax has a rather narrow band of temperature in which it will remain effective. It has to be warm enough to be soft and pliable (which is why you must knead it each time to warm it up before use), but wax also melts if it gets too hot, such as in a car in the sun or in a beach bag. Wax ear plugs are okay if they are to be used indoors in a controlled climate, but wax is not recommended for outdoor applications.
Reusable Swimming Ear Plugs

We carry an extensive line of ear plugs made specifically for water protection, and these include a number of ear plugs that also let you hear while protecting against water and wind. Generally, the less the plugs interfere with your ability to hear, the more expensive they are, so you will find the surfing ear plugs near the bottom of the list.

Reusable ear plugs that are suitable for swimming actually include nearly all pre-formed universal fit silicone earplugs. See all our reusable ear plugs here. Though most of these products are made for noise protection, they work equally well for water protection; just know that these will also block much of the sound you would otherwise hear.

Custom Molded Ear Plugs for Swimming

Let's be real: professional custom molded ear plugs are more expensive to buy and considerably more inconvenient to create, but once they're made, they are an excellent choice for frequent swimmers. They are also perfect for those who must have water protection while bathing or showering. Custom ear plugs are simple to insert. They are the most comfortable of the choices available. And they are uniformly effective because they only fit one way, while universal fit ear plugs can take some "fiddling" to get properly seated each time you use them.

For people who need to protect their ears from water on a daily basis, custom ear plugs definitely pay off over time. We have customers who tell us their lab made custom ear plugs are still going strong ten years out, making these one of the least expensive options when considering the cost per use. Custom plugs last so long that the most frequent reason for people need to replace their custom ear plugs has actually been losing them...well that, and the dog ate them. Really.

We do not recommend lab made custom ear plugs for children under 12 or so, as their ears are still changing, dramatically shortening the practical use period of the custom ear plugs. And for anyone considering a water prevention ear plug, we suggest that you begin by trying several universal fit options, and only move up to custom ear plugs when and if you determine that the universal fit options are failing to meet your needs in some way.

When you consider custom ear plugs, please note that in addition to lab made custom ear plugs, we also offer a number of DIY custom ear plug options. These DIY plugs are a small fraction of the price of lab made custom ear plugs. They may lack the quality look and finish of lab made custom ear plugs, but DIY custom plugs can be just as long-lived. They may not fit as well as the professional versions, which could be a definite deal-breaker for swimming, but it doesn't cost much to experiment with them. One caveat regarding these DIY custom ear plugs, though: all of them will block most of the sound you can hear. The only kind of custom ear plugs that will still let you hear most of the sounds around you are lab made specialty swimming and surfing ear plugs such as the Westone Style 70.

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