My family and I love to snorkel. The brightly colored fish glittering in the sun are always a treat for the senses. Sometimes we spot something larger like a turtle or even a barracuda. My husband and son like to dive down to search for octopi and other hidden gems. This rapid change in pressure brings water into their ears which can sometimes take a few days to dissipate.
I prefer to float on top to avoid that mess. Water and hearing devices do not mix well.
Recently I took an additional step to keep my ears dry—custom swim plugs from my audiologist.
Custom Swim Plugs Keep My Ears Dry
Many people with hearing loss simply remove their devices for water activities, but this is harder to do with my hearing aids. I wear Lyrics, which sit deep inside the ear canal. They are extended wear, so I use them for 8-10 weeks at a time without removing them. Then, I visit the audiologist to have a fresh set inserted. Over the years, I have learned to remove and insert them myself which was very helpful during the pandemic.
Lyrics are water resistant so I can do almost anything when wearing them—shower, sleep, sweaty workouts—but I can’t submerge my head in water which makes swimming and other water sports risky business. Swim plugs to the rescue!
Made much like custom ear molds, the plugs fit snugly and deeply in the ear canal, keeping water out and my precious hearing devices protected. My new plugs fit so well in my ear, they are unlikely to come out while swimming, but just in case, I use a swimmer’s headband to hold them in place. Sadly, nobody can see the bright pink and blue tie-dye color of the plugs themselves.
Preparation is Key to Success with Hearing Loss
Just like everything with hearing loss, there are a few extra hoops to jump through, but once we figure out a system, we can make it work. Even water sports.
When snorkeling, I spend almost ten minutes setting up. First, I put my devices into sleep mode to avoid feedback from the plugs. Then I insert the plugs securely and cover them with the headband. Next, comes the tricky part—putting on the snorkel mask so it will seal tightly to my face. This is an iterative process where I wiggle the headband around until it is out of the way of the mask but still in place over my ears.
The whole process is pretty comical to watch. I usually get a few strange looks from fellow snorkelers who seem to be having a much easier time getting into the water! Never one to miss an opportunity to build more hearing loss awareness, I just laugh, point to my ears and say, “hearing aids.” This seems to calm them down.
Sometimes I get a few follow-up questions about how it all works, which I am happy to answer once my earplugs are out and my devices turned back on.
Where to Get Swim Plugs
While swim plugs may not be as critical for people whose hearing devices are removable, they may still be useful for keeping ears dry when out on the water. They may also lower “drying time” before your devices can be reinserted once back on dry land.
I ordered my swim plugs from my audiologist, but there are several online companies that make them as well.
The process takes two to four weeks from start to finish so get started now if you want to be ready for summer swimming season!
Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss, (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues. Connect with Shari: Blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.