a snorkeler on the surface

Can You Snorkel With Ear Plugs?

Snorkeling is an activity that appeals to the widest range of people, from those who love being on the water to the casual holidaymaker. While there are a few prohibitive problems with the activity, some issues can be corrected quite easily.

Many people suffer from ear issues. While that might prohibit them from diving, they wonder if the same is true for snorkeling. So, can you snorkel with earplugs?

Yes, there usually aren’t any issues that prevent someone from snorkeling with ear plugs. Earplugs can be used if you want to be a surface snorkeler, with perhaps the occasional shallow dive. Foam isn’t advised as it absorbs water, so go for silicone ear plugs. Some options help vent the ear pressure if you want to dive deeper.

If you do get problems with your ears when you’re in the water, particularly seawater, then snorkeling shouldn’t be unobtainable, and there are ways of dealing with the issues that arise.

Why Do People Need Ear Plugs For Snorkeling

Most children at some point in the growth might have experienced a middle ear infection. It’s quite painful and is a problem intensified by water. Preventing a great deal of water from entering the ear is needed to make any water based activity bearable.

Adults are better at dealing with ear infections, yet there is a condition known as swimmer’s ear. Bacterial growth needs both oxygen and a moist environment to survive.

Swimming in the open oceans lets water enter the ear and the canals providing the perfect environment for the growth of the infection.

Ear plugs can also be a remedy for seasickness. Any form of nausea from motion is caused by inner ear imbalances not complimenting what the brain perceives to be true. Your inner ear can perceive movement even though your eyes say you aren’t.

Sometimes, for a snorkeler or a swimmer suffering from this, wearing a set of ear plugs can help with reducing the effect.

There is an issue with ear plugs and scuba divers though. As you descend deeper into the water column, the pressure will build up. This can cause problems with equalization, and the increased pressure can force an ear plug into the ear.

So while scuba diving with ear plugs has problems, how does snorkeling with ear plugs compare?

a female snorkeler in shallow clear water near a beach

Why Using Ear Plugs With Snorkeling Is Fine

A lot of the issues that prevent someone from using ear plugs with water based activities aren’t present in snorkeling. 

Swimmers use ear plugs, even open water swimmers, so it shouldn’t be an issue for most people.

The main contention for ear plugs with regards to snorkeling is based on whether the simple foam ones work, and whether it’s an issue if you dive as a scuba diver does.

Can You Dive While Snorkeling With Ear Plugs?

This is the issue that scuba divers face.

In its basic form, an ear plug will block the ingress of water into the ear canal. This creates a volume of air within the inner ear that can’t be equalized.

If you dive with ear plugs that block airflow, then as a diver descends the water pressure will push the ear plug further into the ear canal.

However, this isn’t an issue with snorkeling. A lot of snorkeling is done on the surface, and most won’t dive particularly deep. The water pressure isn’t that great if you only shallow dive.

So unless you plan on descending deeper than most, it’s not something you need to worry about as a snorkeler.

Can You Snorkel/Swim With Foam Ear Plugs?

Not really. There are cheap options available from local chemists that are marketed as swimming ear plugs that are far superior.

Foam earplugs aren’t water resistant so will let water into the ear. The foam is designed primarily for noise reduction, not water suppression so it won’t alleviate the problem of stopping water from getting into your ear canal.

a snorkeler on the surface following a turtle

Other Ear Plug Solutions For The Snorkeler

Most who wear silicon based swimming ear plugs don’t really have an issue after that, nevertheless, there are other alternatives that you may want to consider.

Some can be used as an accompanying solution whereas others are a direct replacement.

Oil based spray – Local chemists, online retailers, dive shops, and local scuba centers will all have some kind of drop or spray that helps prevent ear infections caused by being in the water. They will lightly coat the ear canal in a hydrophobic oil which makes the inner ear water repellant.

If you are known to suffer from the condition it’s worth checking out.

Surf ears – Although designed for surfers these might work as they are good at keeping out water. The advantage to these is they don’t block out sound. They are designed to keep out water but keep an audible ability to the user.

They are more expensive than traditional ear plugs but lots of surfers wear them.

Vented plugs – Although there are a few brands, Doc Pro’s vented ear plugs seem to be pretty well thought of. A vented ear plug helps with equalization. It’s not a complete seal but has a valve that allows for the passage of air.

If you dive deeper but need ear plugs these seem to be a sensible choice.

Designed mask – IST makes a snorkeling mask that provides ear protection. Not only does it help you visually but it will keep water away from your ear.

Final Thoughts – Parting Waves 

Dealing with potential ear infections while in the water is a serious issue. While the occasional infection is temporary, there are cases of professional sportsmen going deaf, or suffering reduced hearing ability so it’s not a brush off issue.

So if you are a casual snorkeler it may well be something you never have to deal with.

For surface, and shallow diving, a pair of swimming ear plugs made from silicon, not foam, will be fine for most people.

Should a problem be more acute, you can get sprays that assist with making your inner ear more hydrophobic, and vented plugs can make the experience more enjoyable by allowing more sound to be heard.

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