Protect your lugs with the best earplugs for swimming from Amazon, Boots, Decathlon, Wiggle, Speedo, Surfears and more
Swimming is a great all-around exercise. Around 4.7 million adults swim at least twice a month – which isn’t really surprising given the significant benefits. Regular swimming can lower stress levels, reduce anxiety and help you sleep – as well as improving heart health, lowering blood pressure and increasing bone strength. Plus, it’s a great way to burn calories.
When most people go swimming, they’ll instinctively grab a costume, towel and some goggles. But whether you’re a pool swimmer or an outdoor convert, there’s one product that will make your swim even better: earplugs.
Earplugs help to prevent water and bacteria from entering the ear canal, reducing the chances of infection and the dreaded “swimmer’s ear”. They can also help to tune out background noise, while ensuring you can still chat to friends or hear crucial instructions during races.
When looking to purchase swimming earplugs, you’ll want to find a pair that fits comfortably and, obviously, don’t let water in. To do this, you should consider whether a unisex “one size fits all” model suits you, or whether you’d prefer a different, tailored bud size.
You should also consider whether you would benefit from any extras, such as a case or straps to keep them attached to goggles. Finally, we’d recommend buying a colourful pair – there’s nothing worse than trying to spot blue earplugs at the bottom of a pool mid-swim (or in a river, mid-triathlon).
How we tested
Over the summer, we took a deep dive and tested earplugs from across the market during sessions in our local pool and the sea. We’ve rounded up the best below – so whether you’re a fair weather swimmer, a hardened triathlete or a regular pool goer, we can guarantee there’s a pair for you.
The best swimming earplugs for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Bollsen watersafe+ earplugs, £24.95, Bollsen-hearingprotection.com
- Best for outdoor swimming – SurfEars 3.0, £49.99, Surfears.com
- Best for pool swimmers – Arena rrgo ear plug: £8.99, Decathlon.co.uk
- Best for regular swimmers – Auritech water sports earplugs: £19.95, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for a tight budget – Boots swimming earplugs: £4.69, Boots.com
- Best value – View 2 way silicone ear plugs: £5.99, Mailsports.co.uk
- Most attractive design – Nike swim ear plugs: £6, Wiggle.co.uk
- Best for custom moulding – ZenPlugs swim custom Moulded ear plug Kit: £18.74, Zenplugs.com
- Best unisex – Speedo biofuse aquatic earplug: £7.50, Speedo.com
- Best for bigger ears – Aqua Sphere earplugs: £5.00, Deepbluedive.com
Bollsen watersafe+ earplugs
Bollsen’s watersafe+ earplugs tick all the right boxes. Great fit? Tick. No leaking? Check. Comfortable? Definitely. Noise insulation too? Yes. We could leave it there, but we’ll elaborate for those who like a few extra details.
These are made from medical silicone, with a tiered design that – unlike some of the others on the market – is more like a cone than an arrow. This means they fill the ear canal nicely, preventing any water from entering whether you are in rough seas or the pool. It also means that bespoke bud size isn’t as important as they naturally adapt to the size of the canal. They have special sound filter technology, which we found effectively limited loud noises while enabling us to hear conversations clearly to ensure we stayed safe (and could chat with friends without removing them).
Bollsen says they are reusable 100 times – we didn’t get a chance to test this claim out but we’ll report back when we get to our swimming century. The brand also offers significant discounts if you buy more than one pair (two pairs are £39.95 while three are £49.95) and you get a metal case that can attach to your keys so you won’t ever lose them. It’s a no brainer.
Best: For outdoor swimming
SurfEars was kickstarted in 2011 by a surfer who had the misfortune of suffering from a serious ear infection that was so bad he went deaf in one ear for nearly a week. This personal story makes all the difference when it comes to the quality of these earplugs; they have definitely been designed with swimmers and surfers in mind.
We loved that this product came with changeable parts, allowing us to try out the buds and choose a size that stayed secure without being uncomfortable. Different coloured buds mean you’ll never get mixed up between the left and right and buyers also get an optional adjustable leash, which we used to secure the earplugs to our goggles, which helped to keep the earplugs in place. This would have made them easier to find if they’d fallen out – although we didn’t get a chance to test this theory as they stayed put throughout all of our sessions.
The brand also says they have close to zero acoustic loss when it comes to human speech, meaning you can still hear your mates or any important instructions from the life or coast guard.
As well as being suitable for swimming, these are also great for divers, kayakers and surfers. While they are one of the more expensive pairs on the market, we won’t be hitting the water any time soon without these.
Arena ergo earplugs
Best: For pool swimmers
We’re going to make a confession: the first time we used these earplugs we didn’t realise they were deliberately colour coded to help us distinguish between our left and right ears. Once we had worked it out, however, it was a game-changer. The clever design trick means you no longer have to faff around at the beginning of swims, working out what goes where. And that’s not their only benefit.
From their compressed silicone stem, which makes them sturdier and easier to handle, to their hollow centre which cuts out background noise while making sure you still hear the important bits, we found these were a cut above the rest. They also have a simple flap of plastic at the bottom of each bud, which acts as a double barrier to the water. Like many of the other pairs on the market, they come with their own reusable plastic carry case for when you’re not in the water. What’s not to like?
Auritech water sports earplugs
Best: For regular swimmers
Auritech is a specialist earplug brand which has been developing products for more than 20 years. Luckily for us, this has included a pair specifically for swimming and water sports.
The first thing we noticed about these earplugs was the comprehensive instructions on the back of the packet, helping us to insert them properly before entering the pool (hint: pull your ear back before inserting and twist gently to remove). Made from silicone-free thermoplastic, we found the design protected well against water. The patented sound filter is genuinely effective and doesn’t muffle noise, making them particularly good during races.
They also come with a metal storage tube, which can be attached to a key ring to stop you from searching through your bag every time you want to find them.
Boots swimming earplugs
Best: For a tight budget
These swimming earplugs by Boots are a good choice if you’re new to the pool and looking for a basic design to help keep water out of your ears. Despite the fact they are the cheapest pair we tried (£4.69 amazingly gets you two pairs), their ribbed design meant they sealed water out well. Our hearing wasn’t impaired and they also come with two small plastic carry cases, helping to keep them clean and making them easy to find in our gym bag.
While they are washable and reusable, Boots advises that they are only suitable for up to 10 swims in either chlorinated or sea water, which means you’ll be having to buy quite a lot of pairs if you’re a regular swimmer. We also found ourselves searching on the bottom of the pool a couple of times after they fell out during front crawl. Overall, this cheap and cheerful pair is great for a beginner swimmer – but more regular pool goers might want to look elsewhere.
View 2 way silicone earplugs
These earplugs come with handy straps, which can be attached to your goggles, making them pretty much impossible to lose. We loved this feature and found it boosted our confidence, particularly during outdoor sessions and in the sea. We’re also pleased to report it’s definitely not style over substance. The three-tiered design means they not only block out water, but also any unnecessary background noise. Made from soft silicone, these are super comfortable. And at just over a fiver for one pair, they’re good value too.
Nike swim wear plugs
Most: Attractive design
With Nike, you know you’ll always be getting a good product. And these earplugs, which are part of the brand’s training aid collection, are no different. Made from soft rubber, the “double flange” design is flexible and moulds to your ear from first use. They also have the added bonus of a flared end, making you doubly sure you won’t get water in your ears.
We found they were particularly good in the pool and held firm even during flip turns and butterfly. They come with a clear reusable carrying case, which features the classic Nike tick, so you can be certain you’re storing them hygienically – even if they end up at the bottom of your gym bag. We also loved the bright design. It’s a big thumbs up from us.
ZenPlugs swim custom moulded earplug kit
Best: For custom moulding
We are always nervous about custom moulded earplugs – but we needn’t have worried about this pair. Yes, you need to be patient when moulding them and you might get funny looks from housemates or family members (it requires a boiling mug of water and some lubricant). But once you’ve gone through the process, which takes around 15 minutes, then you’re good to go.
We found this pair created a solid seal to block water and stayed secure throughout sessions, only losing them once during a particularly vigorous front crawl. We didn’t have any issues finding them, however, as they come with a cord and a brightly coloured float which means they remain on the surface of the water.
We haven’t had to do it yet, but the brand promises you can remould the earplugs if they become damaged. The only thing we were longing for was a small case to help keep them clean. Otherwise, they are a good buy.
Speedo biofuse aquatic earplugs
Best: Unisex swimming earplugs
Speedo prides itself on its high quality swimwear and accessories. So it should be no surprise that the brand’s biofuse aquatic earplugs are comfortable and highly effective. Their ergonomic design, which features multiple layers, led to a secure fit and stopped any water entering the ear canal.
The product also includes Speedo’s “biofuse technology”, which the brand says is “designed to perform in complete harmony with your body”. They are certainly comfortable and soft to the touch. The blue and grey buds are thinner than some of the other pairs we tried, which suited us, but is worth considering – particularly if you’ve previously had issues with earplugs falling out during swims. For £7.50, buyers get one pair and a plastic carry case to help keep them hygienic.
Aqua Sphere earplugs
Best: For bigger ears
These simple blue earplugs from Aqua Sphere are just as effective as some of the more expensive pairs, especially if you’re in need of a slightly bigger bud. The conical design and soft rubber material help to prevent water entering the ear canal. A longer handle can make it feel like pairs are more likely to fall out, but we had no issues. Made from soft rubber, they also come with their own reusable carry case, despite the low price point.
The verdict: Swimming earplugs
There are plenty of swimming earplugs on the market – but with big differences in price and design it can be hard to determine the best pair to purchase. We loved the watersafe+ earplugs from specialist brand Bollsen, but there was close competition from SurfEars with its 3.0 design. Either pair will see you through any session.
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For more water aids, read our round-up of the best swimming googles
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