View Full Version : Looking for really good earplugs

September 5th, 2014, 03:32 PM
I have a perforated eardrum and have recently started swimming again. (I know, maybe I should have repaired the eardrum before getting in the water, but there was no guarantee the repair would work). I'm currently using Mack's, but it's not working to the degree I expected. I'm still getting water in my ear - and it HURTS! Needless to say, I can't keep getting water in my ear (pain aside) I risk infection and other complications.

Since the first day, I haven't been able to recreate the "perfect seal" to keep water out. According to product label, I should also be able to get a few uses out of one earplug before requiring a new one...but no luck. Even a new one didn't work as well the second time as it did the first. Disappointing.

Can anyone recommend an earplug that's fool proof and will keep water out? Or maybe a trick to how to better use what I've got? (I am following product instructions and not forming the plug to my ear canal. I'm using it as a "cap" to the canal.) I'd appreciate the feedback! :)

September 5th, 2014, 04:30 PM
If you don't mind, how did you injure your eardrum?

I've been having ongoing ear trouble lately. Had an infection too. Found that certain plugs would irritate. Had recent success with the ones with the built in check valves. I rinse them prior to use with isopropyl alcohol.

September 5th, 2014, 04:57 PM
The injury cannot be pin-pointed...though I have a suspicion as to when/how it happened.

There was no trauma, no known ear infection. And while I have been skydiving within the last couple of years - I don't believe that caused it either.

Iperforated the other eardrum when I was in high school as a result of an unknown ear infection (poor ear drainage). That eardrum repaired itself. Having experienced that pain, I had some recollection when nearly four years ago, I experienced a similar pain - though much less severe and very short lived. While recovering from a kidney donation, about a month after surgery, ended up with a head cold. Coughing and sneezing was still not tolerated so I may have done it during that time when trying to minimize the intensity of a cough or sneeze. I remember having a specific conversation with my mom (mom's remember EVERYTHING) about the symptoms. Since this one was so dramatically different, (no lasting pain) I didn't think anything of it.

It wasn't until February of this year that I started feeling pain (rather than general annoyance - I suspected for a while something wasn't right when I could breathe through my ear) so I went to a clinic. Several doctor visits later, the perforation was discovered. Turns out the ear pain wasn't from the perforation (that was a bonus to have finally been discovered) and the ear pain was really a neck issue (C3 - C7).

September 5th, 2014, 09:52 PM
You might want to try Barracuda earplugs. For what it's worth I have used them for many years without any problems.

September 6th, 2014, 08:10 PM
Thanks for the reply guppy.

Given the excruciating pain felt when water gets in my ear, I won't be able to tolerate too much experimentation. That's why I put the question out there for the masses. I was incredibly disappointed by the Mack's product. I thought for certain a moldable silicone product would create a perfect seal knowing ear canals can be different.

I'll try a conventional plug. Cross your fingers and wish me luck (or better yet, a dry ear)!


September 7th, 2014, 06:59 PM
You are most welcome. If you haven't checked out the Barracudas they are form fitting with a hollow core that does not completely block out sound. And they seem to last forever.

September 11th, 2014, 12:35 PM
Hi Dulfin,

You may be interested in our SWIMMER magazine product review of earplugs, which can be found here:


However, given your perforated ear drum, your best bet is probably the ones custom-molded for your ears, usually available from an ENT doc or an audiologist. Also apparently on the web: http://www.earplugstore.com/custom-molded-swimming-ear-plugs.html (just a quick Google search—you may want to check with your doc before purchasing).

They can be a bit pricey, but are the most effective according to folks with chronic ear problems.

Hope this helps,


September 14th, 2014, 03:37 PM
Thank you for the feedback. Clearly, I've more homework to do and quite possibly a trip to my ENT in the near future. However, I'd still welcome additional insight from forum users.

September 16th, 2014, 02:47 AM
I have exactly the same problem as you. My injury happened when I was 16 years old. I was playing a game of rugby football when I got an unintentional flat hand to the right ear. The pressure created by the blow was enough to perforate my eardrum. At the time the doc told me there was no need for surgery and that the perforation would heal itself. He was right: it did, but my ear has never been the same since, is easily re-perforated, and has had one infection after another.

It seems that the perforation does heal but it is not as good as new. It seems that it is very susceptible to being re-perforated. Anything, from a severe cold, sneezing, equalizing when on an airplane or scuba diving/snorkeling could open up the hole again and then you have to deal with inevitable ear infection that follows.

I had to stop scuba diving but I still snorkel and am very careful when equalizing and have to be 100% cold free when I do it. I have always lived with a bottle of ear drops next to my bed and have used just about every plug on the market. To be honest, I haven't found one that I am really satisfied with. They all let some water in and if you have a perforated eardrum that is almost a certain infection. The best ones I have found are those silicone, ribbed ones ( I did a post on it once and will try to go back and find it). You need to insert them with a good coating of Vaseline. Use a gentle twisting motion when inserting and then pull back ever so slightly until you feel a vacuum being created in the ear canal. Now you know you have a good fit. No vacuum, not water proofed.

I have used an earplug even when my eardrum hasn't been perforated and often clean my ear canals with ear buds. I have also used ear drops on an almost daily basis. That was until about two years ago. About two years ago, I decided to stop putting anything into my ears: ear buds, ear plugs, ear drops, anything. The result: two years infection free. Not one tiny little one. Not even a hint of one. I have been told that even ear buds can cause tiny lesions in the ear canal which can result in infection. I am guessing the same goes for ear plugs, too. So I have stayed away from them and with great result.

My advice to you is to stay away from the water until the perforation has healed over. It has always healed over with me and I have perforated it on numerous occasions. Then, when it is healed don't use any ear plugs and avoid putting anything into your ear. The ear self cleans and wax doesn't need to be helped out unless there is a blockage. Some swimmers do get a narrowing of the ear canal as a bone spur grows outwards to protect the ear from cold water. This can cause a wax blockage, but I am guessing this is relatively rare and in most cases needs no interference.

September 27th, 2014, 08:50 AM
Back to the doc I went and discussed my recent return to swimming. Even though I was given antibiotic/steroid eardrops and the doc said there's been no harm in swimming, I opted not to get back into the water. And while there's still no guarantee a repair will work, I've got a better chance than not and surgery is scheduled for next week. I also discussed custom earplugs, and the doc thought that would be a good idea to help protect the ear after surgery upon my return to the water. The plan is set. So my return to the pool after a long hiatus has been temporarily halted, I'm looking forward to possibilities after recovery and hope to be back in the water sometime in November! Thanks for the feedback.

September 27th, 2014, 09:57 AM

Please keep us posted on your progress. Search for this thread and post here when you have news to report. Your experience might help someone else down the road.

Good luck and I hope the repair is successful!

Anna Lea

October 1st, 2014, 05:15 PM
Surgery was today. So far so good. Doc was able to do the repair from the ear canal (no extra cuts needed) and I only have two stitches behind my ear from the graft. Stitches come out in a week. The packing will be in for about a month (helps holds the graft) and will automatically dissolve. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can still be in the water sometime in November.

October 9th, 2014, 07:24 PM
LOL - I really need to lower expectations... I was so hoping the trip to the doc's office to get stitches out would result in a looksee inside the ear. Awwww shucks! Only the stitches. There were two layers of packing externally. First one came out on its own on Sunday. He won't touch the other layer (directly against the eardrum). I go back in 4 weeks and it'll be the first peek...keeping my fingers crossed that when he looks, he can't see through. :rofl:

In the meantime, I count the days. I soooo hope this works. On the agenda for the next follow up - pursue custom earplugs. Already talked to the doc about it and he thought that would be a good idea to help protect the eardrum (even if the repair works).


November 6th, 2014, 07:18 AM
It's 5 weeks post op an the doc still can't see the repair! Had a good follow up yesterday, doc was able to remove some of the packing, however a tiny bit was stuck right to the graft site. Doc didn't want to risk damaging the delicate graft by tugging at something stuck to it. So it's another follow up in 10 days while in the meantime I try to dissolve/soften the remaining packing with Rx eardrops. Sadly, no water (still have to cover the ear in the shower) until the doc can see the graft and confirm the repair. He says this is common and that I'm on track with recovery - no delays. I say I've been out of the water too long and am dying to get back in! LOL

Bottom line, if the repair worked, I'm thrilled I did it. Just frustrating as I was so excited to get back into the water after a very long hiatus, this speed bump is making me crazy. Keep your fins crossed I get the green light in 2 weeks!

November 6th, 2014, 09:06 AM
I share your frustration. I know what it is like waiting to get back into the water again. It feels like an eternity and even just a whiff of chlorine is enough to give you the shakes and send you into serious withdrawal. Hang in there. Spend your time planning how you are going ease back into it the first month. Plan you workouts, do some reading on technique, go and buy a new suit or some new equipment and watch videos of Ian Thorpe swimming in slow motion and get inspired!

Not much longer now!

November 6th, 2014, 12:32 PM
I've tried the custom molded ear plugs by an audiologist, and they leaked. They also told me not to go underwater with them. For years I've been using Mac's Silicon plugs. As soon the plug is not sticky, I use a new one. They're great, I can dive in and even do open water races with no leaking. When you are all healed up give them a try.

November 6th, 2014, 05:03 PM
What a saga! Thanks for sharing and good luck. Here's hoping you make it back into the water soon.

November 8th, 2014, 08:01 AM
Saga indeed!

What I've appreciated during this time is this forum. Our collective experiences, while different, still offer something to all of us when shared. Whether we're winning or struggling, learning or cheering each other on...we're all the same. We're swimmers! And we care about our sport and those who participate. So thanks for encouraging me to keep updating!

I had a dream last night...I was swimming (without earplugs) - it was great! My new target date to be back in the water is December 1st and I LOL because it's completely out of my control. Until then, I'll just keep dreaming. :groovy:

November 17th, 2014, 06:06 PM
:bliss: Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray! The surgery worked, the eardrum has been repaired successfully!

No more precautions to take when showering - what a pain that was!

I can get back in the water too! Though I've been cautioned not to "stress" the ear. No airplanes or diving for 6 months - whew, thank goodness I didn't have a trip planned. LOL

My plan is to take it easy and get back into a normal morning routine and then get back in the water. December 1st.

One more follow up visit in 4 weeks, this one with another hearing test.


November 18th, 2014, 10:26 AM
Congratulations on a successful surgery! Welcome back to the pool! :)

December 15th, 2014, 06:01 PM
Interesting update for those following along....

While I haven't been able to get back into the water yet (mostly because of work)...

I did have my last post-op follow up that also included a hearing test.

<<<Insert drum roll>>>

My hearing has been restored to perfect. The minimal loss I did have at the lower range - successfully corrected with the ear drum repair!

Oddly enough, I didn't even think the hearing could/would be restored. Wasn't even an expectation. I couldn't be happier!

So the big test is still on hold until work settles down...but I had to share this update - just too cool not to!

YAY me! :wiggle:

December 16th, 2014, 01:17 PM
Glad to hear your hearing is restored! Great news!