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Ear Protection for Diving : A Step-By-Step Guide

Wanna pick some earplugs for your next scuba diving adventure?

These are great ear plugs for swimming or diving that help prevent ear infections from occurring. They're designed specifically for scuba diving.

You've been waiting for a reason to pick some earplugs for your next diving trip, right? Here you go.

Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to protect your ears.

Picking the best earplugs for scuba diving

There's a reason you may be on this page—you want to shield your ears from water bacterial infections that can give you pain in your ears. Many divers got some ear pressure when they had gone to dive or spent too much time underwater.

This causes unpleasant discomfort and can cause nausea, swelling, pain, and a feeling of fullness in the ear.

Other divers get serious complications where they have to avoid diving altogether, which can be frustrating. It's a pain that's going to haunt you for a long time as a swimmer or a diver if you're not used to wearing earplugs.

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Not every diver experiences these problem

Not every diver experiences these problems, and they vary from person to person. For those who do, diving to them is more of a gamble, as they don't know if it will affect them.

It's crucial to feel the pain during the descent that you abort the dive and go back to the shallows.

What Causes Ear Pain?

  • Any conditions can contribute to ear pain while diving, including water blockage, temperature changes, and water pressure. Occasionally, divers can develop pain in their ears due to elevated water pressure. Water-resistance improves with depth; thus, the more the diver comes down, the more excellent the water pressure is.
  • Divers experience discomfort as the pressure increases, and the outside surface of the ear is first affected by the rise in pressure. The inner surface has an ear pressure and then seeks to equalize the pressure by depending on the Eustachian tube to open it. If it does not open, the water's tension is forced into the ear, leading to discomfort and inflammation. The diver may determine whether to carry on the pain or return to the shallows. When a diver proceeds, they are in danger of rupturing their ears due to a great deal of weight. When the ear splits, the water floods into the middle ear, causing hearing loss, vomiting, dizziness.
  • An outer ear infection may also cause discomfort. It is primarily driven by excessive exposure to water or whether the water is stuck in the ear. This will promote the growth of bacteria that could later cause infection.
  • Cold temperatures can cause irregular bone development within the ear canal, which can lead to discomfort.

Divers use earplugs, gloves, ear dryers, and specific ear drops to alleviate discomfort or minimize the onset of pain while diving. The positive news is that you will see the characteristics you need to consider for the right diving earplugs out there.

There are three critical things that your mind can be concerned with: fabrics, health, and noise control. If one or more of these earplugs are missing, so we strongly recommend that you replace them.


If it comes to fabrics, you ought to make sure you're buying rubber, putty, plastic, or some mix of the three. If you don't have at least one of these materials in the earplugs you're looking to purchase, don't worry. Ninety-five percent of the diving earplugs made from other materials are lousy.

They're not even going to endure you in five swimming adventures. If you want to get your hands on a secure and sturdy pair, the best choice is for rubber, putty, or acrylic materials. Besides, make sure you buy earplugs explicitly designed for swimming. 

A typical attribute that most consumers see is that they opt-in for sleeping earplugs, sporting earplugs, or commercial work earplugs, and this is a critical error that you need to prevent. They do not make these kinds of pairs to repel water, and they will insulate all the noise near you.

Search for earplugs that are specifically made for swimming to avoid any of these intolerable problems. Infection is another fundamental problem that you need to remember. Your ear canal might be allergic to some material. You need to avoid such materials at all costs, so you don't have to deal with earaches.


Next to our list of critical factors when buying high-quality diving, an earplug is a comfortable fit. Earplugs that don't feel snug to your ear won't do the job correctly. You might wear them a few times, but sooner rather than later, you're going to realize that this isn't the way you're going to have to replace them. Most of the quality materials are soft and effortlessly molded to your ear. 

However, a rigid silicone or plastic material cannot form into the shape of your ear. You need to consider the size of your ear. Before you buy them, try the earplugs. Feel it. Switch from here. If problems have not occurred during the "test period," then you can rest your worries and choose the most comfortable earplugs.

Don't buy tiny earplugs because they will not make an airtight fit, and the water is going to seep in, risking an infection. Even a superficial infection may lead to severe earaches.

ear protection for diving 5

Noise Reduction

You will encounter earplugs on all sides of the spectrum—earplugs that do not impair sound output and earplugs that minimize noise. And here's the deal: if you pick a pair that will encourage you to take part in a discussion and hear with no problems, the airtight seal will be a challenge.

This means more water is flowing in, and the risk of infection will hop enormously. This is how they usually make diving earplugs with roots. And the larger the stems, the more you hear the instructions. It would be better if you were to make your assessment here. 

If you're always listening to the directions, it'd be easier to follow them. On the other side, you can choose earplugs that won't allow any water movement to get close to your earplugs. You won't hear it, though. If you don't have someone near you and want to be focused on diving, this will be a decent choice.

Causes of Pain

Ear pain caused by diving can happen for many different reasons. A few of the most common causes are ear infection, congestion, and barotrauma (pressure related changes). Here is an overview of these three causes and what you can do to help alleviate symptoms.

Some divers experience ear pain from an ear infection that developed before or during scuba diving. This pain can be debilitating for days or weeks after exposure to water. There are a couple of ways to remediate this issue. The first way is to use antibiotics on the infected area, which will hopefully fight off the illness and clear up any inflammation caused by it.

Antibiotic ear drops

A lot of divers use antibiotic ear drops (such as Otomicin). These ear drops can be used to fight off an infection, but should not be used for longer than instructed because they are toxic in high doses.

If your body does not respond to the drops by feeling better in a couple of days, you may have another cause for your pain.

Antibiotic pills

The other common method is taking antibiotics orally. In my experience, this method works well especially if the infection is caused by bacteria (which is most often the case).

Swallowing antibiotic pills can take a few weeks to work and they do have side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

Prescription pain killers

Some divers use prescription pain killers such as Vicodin or Tylenol with Codeine to help manage the pain. These pills can be obtained with a doctor’s prescription, but I would urge caution if you choose to use them.

These pills are very addictive and can have a long list of side effects ranging from constipation to death. It is very easy to get hooked on these substances and the safest way to avoid dependence is to not start using them in the first place.

For those who decide that these pills are right for you, talk to your doctor about the proper ways of taking them.

Pain killers with local anesthetic

A more extreme option is to use vecuronium bromide, which is an anti-anxiety drug. The drug numbs the pain and will prevent you from feeling the pain. The good thing about this drug is that it can be found in nearly any local pharmacy.

I have never personally used this method, but it has been reported that it works very well. Be very careful of using too much of this medication.

A few extra after effects can include asymetrical pupils, severe drowsiness, and dizziness. If you start to feel any of these effects, stop taking the medication immediately and contact your doctor for further instructions.


The other common causes of ear pain include congestion and barotrauma. There are many causes of congestion including: allergies, colds, sinus infections, and ear infection. The congestion can cause fluid to build up in the middle and inner ears which will cause pain.

For this type of swelling (which is technically called serous otitis) you can try using decongestants such as Sudafed or Claritin to reduce swelling in the outer ear.

This will alleviate some of the pressure on the middle ear drum. Soaking your head in hot water can also help because it opens up your sinuses and helps drain any fluid from your head into your throat where it belongs.

Water pressure changes

Barotrauma is the most common cause of ear pain in divers and is usually not caused by an infection or congestion. The most common cause of barotrauma is a pressure change within the middle ear.

Every time you descend in the water, you have to equal out the pressure with your surroundings or else it will start to hurt. The easiest way to equalize the pressure is with your nose, which can lead to sinus congestion problems ranging from irritation to full on sinus infections.

You can reduce this problem by doing a proper descent (slow and steady) and exhaling through your nose on the way down. Another very useful tip is to try wearing ear plugs while diving (either foam or silicone).


Foam ear plugs will make it hard for water to enter your ears. They work by creating a seal in your ear canal which helps reduce the pressure change. Foam ear plugs can be purchased at most diving stores or pharmacy's.

Using them while swimming, surfing, and boating is good because foam plugs can easily come out of your ears every time you submerge yourself in water.

The other type of ear plug is the silicone type which is shaped to form a perfect seal in your ear canal. These work much better and are often preferred by divers because they don't fall out, but they also have their downsides.

Ear Wax

I have seen many cases of ear pain when divers would start to dive with ear wax in their ears, which is very common. Because the ear canal is so narrow, it is easy for water to enter your ears and cause a pressure change that will cause pain.

Since it is hard to get an appointment with an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) on short notice many divers choose to dive it out by further damaging their eardrums.

I always urge people not to dive with ear wax in their ears because it can lead to more serious problems including infections or barotrauma.


Bottom Line

Many divers look into the use of earplugs when diving. The big question here is, can earplugs help while you dive? Standard earplugs seldom help, unlike personalized earplugs. Hearing membranes have little control over a few feet, and in general, earplugs when diving will damage the ear canal and the ear canal.

They could do more damage than they expected. They create airspace that cannot be equalized by diving, which makes them unsafe. Suppose you've ever encountered ear pressure while scuba diving; searching for the first pair of earplugs you can find is not the right option. Speak to an expert to hear more about your choices and see what you can and can reduce your discomfort when diving.

Please Note: Just because an ear defender is marked, for example, "Gunshot" - it will still cover other things, like "explosions"

IST ProEar Dive Mask with Ear Covers, Scuba Diving Pressure Equalization Gear, Tempered Glass Twin...
  • EASY CLEARING — Unique tube & seal system makes equalizing easier.
  • PREVENTS EAR ACHE — Eliminates pressure-induced ear pain.
  • BETTER HEARING — Enhances sense of sound under water.
  • WATERTIGHT CUPS — Keeps water out and prevents Swimmer's Ear.
  • COMFORTABLE FIT — Head strap maximizes surface area to eliminate squeezing or pinching.
IST ProEar Dive Mask with Ear Covers, Scuba Diving Pressure Equalization Gear, Tempered Glass Twin...
  • EASY CLEARING — Unique tube & seal system makes equalizing easier.
  • PREVENTS EAR ACHE — Eliminates pressure-induced ear pain.
  • BETTER HEARING — Enhances sense of sound under water.
  • WATERTIGHT CUPS — Keeps water out and prevents Swimmer's Ear.
  • COMFORTABLE FIT — Head strap maximizes surface area to eliminate squeezing or pinching.

Last update on 2023-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Other Questions

Do Earplugs help when scuba diving?

Yes, earplugs do help when scuba diving. Divers can face a lot of ear issues because of the water that enters the ear canal, difficulty in equalizing pressure while underwater, or the emergence of an ear infection.

However, there are now ear protectors available that can prevent any potential ear damage and make diving easy.

Among the other ear protectors, earplugs are the most helpful ones. There are specially designed vented earplugs for diving available in the market that can keep water out of your ears and make pressurization easier but be sure to get the right size.

Can I dive with an ear infection?

No, you should not. Diving is not permitted if you have a swimmer’s ear known as otitis externa in fact you should immediately see a physician. However, infection in the middle ear is not an issue and you can dive with it. Just make sure to cover your ears with the right kind of ear protectors.

Vented earplugs are a great choice when it comes to scuba diving because they keep water out of your ears. The small vents not only allow equalization and prevent debris to enter your ears but also do not let the ear wax from washing out preventing the sensitive ear tissues from being exposed.

Why do ears hurt after diving?

Many scuba divers complain about ear pain. It has also been referred to as “ear squeeze”. This mostly happens when the diver goes deep underwater, the pressure of the outer environment increases which squeeze the pressure in the middle ear.

When the seawater pressure in the ear canal increases, it pushed the eardrum inwards which results in stretching and inflaming of the eardrums ultimately causing pain. This can be prevented by using vented earplugs which are specially designed for divers. These earplugs equalize the pressure and are also comfortable to wear. Earplugs also prevent the water from entering your ears thus reducing any risk of ear infection.


If you require more information, please check these references

Ear problems in swimmers , article, "www.sciencedirect.com", retrieved on, Mon 16-November-2020

Diving injuries to the inner ear , article, "journals.sagepub.com", retrieved on, Mon 16-November-2020

Does cold water truly promote diver's ear? , article, "search.proquest.com", retrieved on, Mon 16-November-2020


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Nick Le Page

Experience : Hi, I am Nick, and I have suffered with ear problems my whole life, mainly tinnitus. I have tried a lot of products to help protect my ears over this period, and several devices to block out the constant ringing

“Are you having problems hearing? If so, those around you already know it. Hearing loss is no laughing matter, so don’t be a punchline.”

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