If you’re here, you’re probably a triathlete. The good news is, you’re in good company.
In 2017, USA Triathlon had over 170,000 members – which means there’s no better time to be a multisport athlete. But your triathlon training could be missing one unexpected edge: swimming ear plugs.
If you’re an experienced swimmer, you’re probably thinking: aren’t those for newbies? (You’re not alone in thinking so: Niki Jamieson of triathanewbie.com thought the same until chronic ear infections convinced her otherwise.)
Healthier ears mean healthier swims and swimming ear plugs will help get you there. Check out these 5 reasons why you need this little extra to take your triathlon performance to the next level.
1. No Water in Your Ears
Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? Actually, keeping water out of your ears matters a lot more than you think.
When water accumulates in your ears, the germs living in the water come along for the ride. And while you can clear the water out of your ears later (try these six tips to get your ears dry) germs can still stick around after the fact. With some pretty nasty consequences.
Those pesky germs are a big problem – 98% of swimmer’s ear cases are caused by bacteria living in fresh water, including swimming pools and lakes.
Ear plugs help simplify the process by keeping water out of your ears in the first place. And no germy water means it’s harder for bacteria hang out in your ears, resulting in a lower potential for ear infections and lowered risk of swimmer’s ear, letting you swim easy.
2. No Germ Buildup = No Swimmer’s Ear
What is swimmer’s ear? In simple terms, it’s the reason your ears hurt or get rashy when you swim without ear protection.
Swimmer’s ear is a type of ear infection most often caused by excessive water exposure – most often seen in, you guessed it, swimmers. Symptoms include ear pain, itchiness, irritation, swelling, hearing loss or bad-smelling oozing from the ear.
Nothing quite like yellowish ooze for a pleasant day at the local pool.
For this reason, doctors recommend that people who play water sports or spend a lot of time in water (hello, triathletes!) should wear ear protection. This includes caps and, yup, ear plugs.
3. Swimming Ear Plugs = Cheaper Swimming
The math is simple: fewer ear infections means fewer trips to the ear doctor for ear infection treatment, which means more money for triathlon training.
The cost of swimmer’s ear is nothing to sneeze at: according to the CDC, swimmer’s ear is responsible for roughly 2.4 million health care visits every year and rings in nearly half a billion in health care costs.
In simpler terms, that’s roughly $200 per visit. Or, in swimmer’s terms, about twice the average cost of swimming at the local college swimming pool.
Instead of pricey doctors visits and infection treatments, swimming ear plugs are a way to sidestep expensive health issues, train a little cheaper, and afford more triathlons.
For other information from the CDC about swimmer’s ear and how to avoid it, check out this handy fact sheet.
4. Swim Undistracted
Need to get in the zone? Swimming ear plugs could be just the thing.
While their primary purpose is to block water, since ear plugs…well, plug your ear, they’re also blocking sound. That means your swim can be a lot quieter, even in a pool full of dedicated swimmers, screaming children and fellow triathletes.
Unfortunately, soundproofing is also a reason to be extra careful.
You can’t hear the person next to you, but you also can’t hear your coach giving instructions, your lifeguard giving safety precautions or the large group swimming around you during an event.
So if you wear swimming ear plugs, be sure to make full use of all your other senses to stay safe in the water.
Need more training tips? We’ve got you covered. Click to check out other resources for triathletes.
5. Swim to the Beat
It’s the age of the geek, baby, and that means technology and water are no longer mutually exclusive. Yup, your music is coming to the water.
Nowadays, there are several high-tech options that allow you to swim while jamming to your favorite bands. Apple iPod Shuffle Swimming Earphones, for example, are in-ear headphones that pick up the signal from your iPhone.
That said, there are a few words of reasonable precaution for gear junkies to keep in mind.
First, underwater headphones aren’t ear plugs in the traditional sense. After all, they’re designed to play music, not keep water out of your ear. So while music in the pool is a great way to beat boredom, you should also be careful to get your ears dry if you use headphones rather than swimming ear plugs.
Second, underwater headphones aren’t cheap. Seems pretty obvious, right? But it’s no fun to lose one little headphone in a big pool or lake full of people, and even less fun to have to replace them. Regular ear plugs come at a fraction of the price.
So before you break out your best dance moves between swimming laps, keep in mind what it cost to buy your waterproof headphones – and what it will cost to replace them.
One last thing…don’t be a rookie.
Fun fact: ear plugs that block sound and swimming ear plugs (a.k.a. ear plugs that keep out water) are two different things. The difference, in fact, between a comfortable swim and a swim spent constantly adjusting your ear plugs.
Don’t ruin your swim with this rookie mistake. Check out this selection of waterproof ear plugs to keep you in the pool doing what you came to do: swim!
Got more questions? We’re here to help!
The triathlete’s training doesn’t end with swimming. You’ve got two other events to train for, which require different tips and tricks to pull ahead of the crowd. Stay on top of all your events and train at the top of your game with our other resources for triathlons.