Why wear earplugs when surfing?
Let’s be honest nobody enjoys wearing earplugs in the water, but the consequences of not protecting your ears can be serious. Regular exposure to cold water and wind can cause abnormal bone growth in the ear canal. This can lead to blockage, deafness, infection, itchiness and pain. The condition is common among cold water surfers and is called exostosis, or Surfer’s Ear. Gruesome surgery is required to remove the bone growth and it’ll take at least 6 weeks without surfing to heal. Prevention is better than the cure – so protect your ears…
Different types of earplugs for surfers
Not all earplugs are suitable for surfing, for example foam earplugs will absorb water and fall out.
Here’s a quick overview of earplugs suitable for surfing:
|Very cheap, multi purpose.
|Small bits can break off in ear. Block sound.
|Low cost, easy to use.
|Block sound, attract dirt.
|Xmas tree plugs
|Easy to use, partial sound.
|Potential fit issues.
|£5 to £40
|Can be expensive and block sound.
|£20 to £80
|Other surfer plugs
|Minimal hearing loss.
|Relatively expensive. Potential fit issues.
|£30 to £60
Want to know a little more, here’s more detail about each of them:
• Blu Tack
The ultimate low cost solution. Simply borrow a bit of Blu Tack from the back of your Kelly Slater poster and squidge a lump in your ear. If you’ve got a spare quid or two, nip down to the stationery shop and get some fresh stuff.
Pros – Very cheap, multi purpose.
Cons – Small bits can break off and remain in ear. Block sound.
Cost – from £1.
Blu Tack earplugs are better than nothing. But long term I’d recommend using something that doesn’t leave little smurf poos in your ear.
• Putty plugs
Like Blu Tack but a bit more ear friendly. These soft moldable ear plugs are usually made from wax or silicone. Available in packs of 4 or more, as they’re easy to lose and are dirt magnets.
Pros – Low cost, easy to use.
Cons – Block sound, attract dirt.
Cost – £5.
A good low cost earplug that’s better for your ear than Blu Tack. However they block out sound and dirt sticks to them quickly.
• Christmas tree plugs
These are little rubber rings with a rigid core that resemble Christmas Trees. They’re easy to fit, protect your ears and allow some sound. They last longer than putty and often come with a cord and case to keep safe and clean. Higher end plugs have filters to allow more sound in but keep water and wind out, like these SurfSafe earplugs from Alpine.
Pros – Easy to use, partial sound.
Cons – One size does not fit all.
Cost – £5 to £40
Faff free and easy to use. The cord and case come in handy too. Due to the fixed round shape it can be difficult to get a good fit.
• Moulded earplugs
A basic moulded ear plug like Zen plugs are hypoallergenic, antibacterial and come with a cord. For a custom, professionally fitted earplug I recommend contacting your local NHS audiology department. Many offer a service to make custom earplugs and they cost less than online commercial versions.
Pros – Perfect fit.
Cons – Can be expensive and block sound.
Cost – £20 to £80
You won’t get a better fit than a professionally made custom ear plug. However, they do block sound and can be expensive.
• Other surfer plugs
Other ear plugs designed for surfers tend to be a variation of the Xmas tree plug e.g. SurfEars, EQ Seals. They use membranes or filters to let sound in, and keep wet and cold wind out. Cords and cases are usually included, but the fit can vary. For example, SurfEars has a ‘wing’ that holds the plug in place and the ear insert comes in different sizes.
Pros – Minimal hearing loss.
Cons – Relatively expensive. Potential fit issues.
Cost – £30 to £60
These earplugs offer the best hearing. Whilst different sizes are available the fit can still be imperfect.
If you’re a regular surfer or ocean dipper – wear earplugs. It will save you a lot of pain in the future. The best ear plugs for you will depend on budget, fit and if you like to hear whilst surfing.
Want a chance to win a pair of earplugs for free? Just enter our Alpine SurfSafe Earplugs giveaway.