woman in swimming cap with her fingers in her ears

Do Swim Caps Keep Water Out Of Ears?

Do swim caps keep water out of ears, or are wet ear canals an inevitable byproduct of your regular swim? I hate getting water in my ears, but I love my daily dip in the pool. There is a whole science and history behind the invention and development of swimming caps. And at times, wearing swim caps has even been more about fashion than about ear protection. But if your main goal for wearing a swim cap is to keep water out of your ears, is a swim cap the right pick? Today I dive into whether they work for this purpose, and what your other options will be.


Do Swim Caps Keep Ears Dry?

The world’s very first swim caps quickly followed the birth of commercial rubber manufacturing in the 1800s. From there, swim caps have had a rich and colorful history on both the fashion and function sides of the spectrum. And guess what type of headwear the earliest swim caps were patterned after? If you guessed aviator helmets, complete with chin strap closure, you sure do know your swim cap fashion history!

Aviator helmets may be many things, but they sure are not watertight. The first swim caps were not designed to be watertight either. Rather, they were intended to keep hair contained and out of pool drains. For competitive swimmers, swim caps quickly became a requirement once research supported their use to reduce drag, which is the resistance the body encounters when moving through the water.

This is also one reason why many competitive swimmers, including several Olympians, actually choose to wear not just one swim cap but two. (The other reason is to keep their goggles in place by securing the goggles strap between two swim caps.)

Do You Cover Ears With Swim Cap?

This raises an interesting question. Are you supposed to cover your ears with a swim cap? Swim caps can be worn to cover the ears. And it is worth experimenting to see if covering your ears with your swim cap helps to keep water out.

Just be aware that swim caps can actually end up trapping water underneath the cap. This trapped water then works its way into the ears, which can lead to earache and infection.

How To Keep Water Out of Ears While Swimming?

If swim caps don’t do a good job of keeping water out of ears, then what can you do to keep your ears dry while you swim? Your best option is swimmers earplugs. But you don’t want to pop in just any earplugs when you are headed to the pool. To really make sure water doesn’t sneak into your external ear canals, you want to use watertight earplugs.

Earplugs are definitely not one size fits all. The wrong earplugs may actually trap water inside your ears while you swim. Moldable earplugs are a good place to start. If you have a history of ear infection, you may also want to talk to your doctor about custom-fit earplugs made just for you.

Best Swim Cap To Keep Water Out Of Ears

You are probably starting to realize that the best swim cap to keep water out of ears may not be a swim cap at all. When you shop for a swim cap, you want it to fit the contours of your head without being so tight it causes headache or leaves red marks on your skin.

Some swim caps also have small flaps of extra material called ear protection pockets designed to fit over the ears. These swim caps are worth a try if you don’t like wearing earplugs. But if you are truly concerned about ear ache or swimmers’ ear, you are better off wearing swim earplugs as well as a swim cap.

do swim caps keep water out of ears

Why You Should Wear a Swim Cap At the Pool

So why should you wear a swim cap at the pool if caps can’t keep water out of your ears? If you swim at a public or community pool, you may not have a choice. Many public pools still require swim caps for health and sanitation reasons. Swim caps keep loose hair from collecting in and clogging pool drains.

Another great reason to wear a swim cap is to protect your hair, especially if it is dyed or treated. Chlorine can be extremely drying and cause brittleness and breakage.
Wearing a swim cap can also help keep your goggles in place on your face as you swim. And if you swim in cold water, the extra layer of protection your swim cap provides can help minimize heat loss through your scalp.

Can a Swim Cap Prevent Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmers ear, or otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal. Swimmers’ ear got its nickname because people who spend a lot of time in the water are more prone to this type of ear infection.

Can a swim cap prevent swimmers’ ear? Unfortunately, wearing a swim cap is not the best way to guard against swimmers’ ear. Because swim caps are not watertight or waterproof, it is all too easy for water to get trapped against your ears and make its way into the outer ear canal, causing earache and infection.

The best way to guard against swimmer’s ear is to wear swimmers earplugs. You can also gently dry your ears with a hair dryer after you swim. If you need more specific ear protection tips, always talk to your doctor before heading out for a swim.

Do Swim Caps Keep Water Out Of Ears?

Swim caps were never intended to serve as watertight protection for your ears. At times, swim caps were even more about fashion than function. And in the world of competitive swimming, swimmers wear caps to shave precious seconds off their lap times.

So do swim caps keep water out of ears? They can and they might, but you shouldn’t count on it. Have you found a swim cap that does a good job keeping water out of your ears? We’d love to hear about your cool find – why not post your story in the comments.

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