Saturday, October 1, 2016

Protect Your Ears

A couple of years into my kayaking career, I went in for a yearly physical.  The first thing my doc noted was that I had an ear infection.  She also commented on my "surfer's ear."  Surfer's ear is a bone growth that occurs in the ear due to repeated exposure to cold water and wind.  If you want the gory details check out this Magic Seaweed Article - "Surfer's Ear - An Inconvenient Truth."  For the not so gross photos - Wikipedia's entry on Surfer's Ear is fairly straight forward.

After my physical, the wheels started turning . . .  

I went on the search for ear plugs.  Lots of kayakers recommend Doc's Pro Plugs.  Doc's come in different sized and are vented so that you can still hear.  I tried them.  Despite trying multiple sizes, I could not get them to seal.  They were great for blocking the wind.  Wearing them, I could hear fairly normally and found that I was much warmer when I was wearing them.   The problem was that they didn't seal out water and actually would trap it in my ear.

The next plugs that I tried were Mack's AquaBlock Earplugs.   These worked!!!  They kept the water out.  I also discovered that the cold water vertigo that I often experienced when doing a lot of rolling or surf kayaking was not an issue when I could keep the water out of my ears.  The problem was that my hearing was definitely compromised when wearing them.  I started using these as my primary plugs for surfing.  They were great except when I was bs'ing with guys in the line up.  I would have to pull one out to hear and then pop it back in when I went to catch a wave.  These also would not work for sea kayaking, whitewater kayaking, and teaching where hearing is important.

For a while I kept both Docs and Macks in my pfd and wore which was appropriate - Doc's when I was instructing and guiding and Macks when I was surfing.

One day, I lost on of my Mac's.  In the drugstore picking up some other things, I discovered  Mack's Ear Seals.  DING - DING - DING!!!  We have the winner.  These plugs keep the water out when I am rolling and surfing.  I also have discovered that I can partially insert them in my ear to block the wind but still be able to hear.  When I am going to be rolling or getting wet, I push them in the whole way to seal the water out.

Tip - the plugs do come off the ends of the string easily.  Before using them, pull them apart and put some aquaseal on them before using to help keep the plug from pulling off the string. 
I keep my ear plugs on my helmet.
A few notes, we all have different size ears and ear canals.  What works for some might not work for others.  Other forms of ear protection include hoods and helmets with ear covers.  It is personal preference.  I am sharing because I think that too many paddlers don't protect their ears until they have started to have problems.  I also am sharing an inexpensive and convenient fix that has worked for me in my multiple disciplines of kayaking. 
Now you know what those strings are poking out of my ears.

1 comment:

  1. So, my hard of hearing is not due to rock concerts *lol*