Swimming and Ear Tubes

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The National practice guidelines state that kids do not need any formal water precautions with ear tubes unless they develop problems after swimming. This is a relatively new guideline. Even five years ago there was a common misconception that if you have tubes, you can’t swim. While ear plugs are not necessary in regular chlorinated swimming pools, some doctors will suggest plugs when swimming in dirty lake water.

Most kids do just fine swimming after tubes and that is the goal, but for the few that don’t, it can be quite painful for the child and parents. Every parent wants their kids to enjoy the fun of swimming in the hot, summer months.

When your child is having ear pain or infections after tubes, it’s time to contact your Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor. After evaluating the ears and existing tubes, your ENT may suggest getting custom-fit ear plugs or recommend other water precautions while the tubes are still in place. Tubes typically stay in for one to two years before falling out on their own.

“I wouldn’t do anything special after the first issue with swimming, but if the ear pain or infections continue, I would institute some water precautions such as custom ear plugs,” stated Dr. Child.

Audiologists can easily make custom ear molds, and often during your same ENT appointment. It entails squirting some cool blue goo into the ears and letting them form a mold, which takes a few minutes. Snap a picture and show your kid what it looks like – they will laugh when they see blue silly putty looking goo plugged in their ears.

Bonus – your child gets to choose their own ear plug color, and maybe even match their favorite swimsuit or goggles. Audiologist Robert Rane recommends any neon color except blue, as it would obviously be difficult to find if lost in a swimming pool. Smart thinking. After the molds are made, they are sent off to a company that makes the custom ear plugs and ships them back to your doctor’s office within about 10 days.

With new ear plugs in place, hopefully there are happier, pain-free swimming days ahead to enjoy the rest of summer!