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As South Africa heads into the heat of summer, many people enjoy swimming to cool down. Be it in the pool, lake, or the ocean, there’s nothing like a swim to relax you and make the summer heat more bearable. But can swimming affect your hearing? Should you do anything to protect your ears while in the water?

Can Swimming Affect Hearing?

Well, the act of swimming cannot affect ones hearing, and for most people, the water won’t either. If you have healthy ear canals and tympanic membranes (ear drums), water should enter the canal and then wash right out. However, there are some people who need to be careful while in the water, as their ears and hearing may be damaged.

Eardrum Perforations:

If you or your child have an open perforation in the ear drum, water may be able to enter the middle ear and cause pain, infection, and even hearing loss. This is equally true if you have a grommet in your ear drum. If there is even a possibility that you might have a hole or grommet in your eardrum, you should always use ear plugs when swimming to protect your middle ear. If you suspect that your child may have an ear infection, it might be best that they avoid the water until it has cleared up. Speak to your doctor or Ear, Nose and Throat specialist if you aren’t sure.

‘Surfers Ear’

Over many years of exposure to cold water, some people may develop bony growths in the ear canal. These growths are called exostoses, but the condition is commonly referred to as ‘Surfer’s Ear’. This condition can happen to anyone, but is most prevalent among surfers and ocean swimmers. Anyone spending a lot of time in the ocean, or who has already been diagnosed with exostoses, should use protective plugs such as these SurfEars to prevent it from getting worse. If exostoses have been identified in your ears, you should be seeing an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist regularly to monitor their growth and allow for intervention at the right time. If left unchecked these growths can eventually close the ear canal, causing significant hearing loss that may require surgery.


Anyone who has done any diving will know the importance of equalising the pressure in your middle ears as you descend or rise. If equalising is not done properly it is possible to burst the tympanic membrane, which may cause infections and temporary or even permanent hearing loss. If you have a cold, or your eustachian tubes are not functioning properly, it might be best to skip the dive until you are able to equalise your middle ear pressure correctly.

It is so important to look after your ears and therefore protect your hearing while spending time in the water. If you’d like to chat about earplug options for swimming, surfing, or diving, or if you have any other questions, comment below or contact us.