How to Choose Ear plugs for Surfing

How To Choose Ear Plugs For Surfing

With so many varieties of ear plug available on the market it can be hard to know which are the best earplugs for surfing. Here we will go through some of the most important factors to consider. Material, cost, comfort and whether they come with a cord are all important. When you buy earplugs for surfing it is very important to make sure they are suitable for this purpose.

picture of a breaking wave
Flanged rubber earplugs. These look like little rubber Christmas trees. A handle protrudes to allow placement and removal. The rubber rings around the handle create a seal with the ear to keep water out. This type are often used for swimming and can be used for surfing as well. They last longer then soft silicon or wax earplugs but eventually the rubber flanges split and come off. They are effective at keeping water out of the ear canal but many people find them uncomfortable. This is because the handle is rigid and straight and the ear canal usually has a curve in it. The rings are circular and the ear canal is usually oval. This type can be connected with a cord, helping you to find them. If plugs are uncomfortable people tend not to wear them.

Moulded earplugs. These earplugs are available in two forms. Firstly you can visit your audiology clinic for a set of moulds to be made. The second way is to use a moulded kit such as ZenPlugs. This costs less and is much quicker. Moulded earplugs tend to be more comfortable than other varieties because they are shaped to the curves of your ear canal. This also makes them better at keeping water out. ZenPlugs are also anti-bacterial, helping to protect you against swimmer's ear. They are brightly coloured and can be connected on a cord. Although moulded earplugs tend to cost more to buy than the other types listed here, the cost per use is much lower as they last for years. Preventing surfer's ear is something which requires the use of protection for many years. As this type of earplug lasts much longer than the other varieties listed here, they are probably the best choice for this purpose.

Foam earplugs. These are commonly found in shops and are suitable for sleeping but are not useful in the water. Although they may keep your ear canals warm, they will become waterlogged and increase the risk of swimmer's ear. This is an infection of the outer ear which is more likely when the skin remains wet for some time. You are better off with plugs which will keep water out, like most of the other varieties listed here.


Wax earplugs. These consist of a soft, malleable wax combined with cotton or synthetic fibres which stop the wax from breaking into pieces in your ear. They are great at keeping water out of your ears and stay in place because they are sticky. Unfortunately this stickiness can lead to a mess. Make sure you don't tread them into the carpet or put one in your pocket. This variety cannot be connected with a cord. It is important to be careful with these plugs because if they break apart in the ear fragments can be left behind. These would need to be removed by an ENT specialist or another doctor.

Soft silicon earplugs. These are malleable and similar to the wax earplugs I mentioned previously. They remain soft and sticky which means that they mould easily to your ear canals and stay in well. They are also effective at keeping water out of the ears. Again, unfortunately the stickiness is their main downfall in that they stick to clothes and carpets, leaving a mess. This type cannot be connected on a cord. Without care these can also fragment in the ear, leaving pieces behind.

Summary. There are many types of earplugs available to prevent surfer's ear. Each of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. In the long run, moulded earplugs are the best.

Dr Toby Bateson