swim plugs

How to Prevent Ear Infections While Swimming

The beautiful sunny days of summer have arrived! But for some kids with ear problems, summer brings unwanted trouble – ear trouble.

Ear infections can occur all year long, but they can limit a child’s water play activities during the summer. Ear infections occur in the middle ear space (otitis media) and in the ear canal (otitis externa or “swimmer’s ear”). Some of the most common treatments for ear infections can be oral or topical antibiotics like “ear drops”. In some cases, doctors will recommend surgical ear tube placement.

The good news is that ear infections like swimmer’s ear can be prevented. The bacteria that cause these infections need water to survive. These bacteria thrive when water remains in your child’s ear after swimming. This is why doctors advise keeping your child’s ears clean and dry, especially if your child is recovering from an ear infection.

Swimming earplugs are an easy solution for a child with ear problems to enjoy water play. You can get earplugs from audiologists or from doctors who specialize in ear, nose and throat issues (ENT) or you can buy them online or in a store (over-the-counter).

As a mom and audiologist, I recommend custom fitted earplugs. They are a guarantee that my daughter’s ears will not get wet and they are easy to put in, especially with a squirmy little one! In my daughter’s case, she would cry every time water would get into her ears. So, having custom earplugs became very handy.

Here are some pros and cons of investing in custom fitted swimming earplugs:

Pros:

  • They are custom fitted to your child’s ears, so they won’t leak or fall out easily
  • They are typically made of superior, more durable materials
  • They are reusable and washable
  • They can be ordered with custom options like handles or a string

Cons:

  • They cost more than over-the-counter swim plugs and may be harder to replace
  • They often require adult assistance to place in the ear properly
  • Your child will outgrow them at some point

When doctors recommend swimming earplugs, it is mainly to keep unwanted bacteria out so ears can stay healthy. This is most important in places like lakes and beaches, where water is more likely to contain harmful bacteria. Swimming earplugs are often not needed in tubs or showers. If you aren’t sure whether your child needs swimming earplugs or if you need of advice on ordering the best ones for your child, contact an audiologist or ENT Specialist.

Shana Moore, MA, CCC-A
Shana Moore is an experienced Audiologist who works in the Audiology Department at Nationwide Children’s. She has almost 8 years of experience working at NCH with children who have hearing loss. Her primary interests include teaching families about their child’s hearing loss and the impact rehabilitation such as cochlear implants and hearing aids plays a role in assisting their child in gaining access to spoken language. She has 3 little girls that are the center of her universe, and keep her very busy outside of work. She loves evening bike rides and swimming with her family.

2 thoughts on “How to Prevent Ear Infections While Swimming

  1. It’s very apparent that Ms. Moore is very driven to see that her patients can experience a better life through better hearing, especially having experienced some of these same issues with her own children.

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