Best Ear Protection for Kayaker

How can Kayaking affect your ears

Surfers Ear

Regular capsizing into cold water can cause bony growths within your ear canal to develop. This can trap water and debris which has the potential to cause a painful ear infection. In some causes when the growths begin to close the ear canal, causing deafness, surgery is required to remove them. 

If you're not planning on capsizing and have a good record for staying upright, you shouldn't forget to keep your ears warm and protected from wind. Continual wind exposure can make your inner ear cold and could introduce bony growths. We recommend a thin hat or buff that covers the ears and sits underneath your helmet, we have recommend some below which will help with this.


With better tecnology making thicker wetsuits and neoprene accesories on the market more people are kayaking in colder waters and in winter months than ever before, increasing the risk of surfers ear. 

Swimmers ear (Otitis Externa)

This is an infection in your outer ear which is often brought on by water that remains in your ear after swimming creating a moist enviroment that aids bateria to grow. Canoeing in polluted or dirty waters can increase the risk of swimmers ear. 


As well as posible problems with surfers ear or perforating ear drums when hitting the water, kayaking are succeptable to hitting their heads due to the shallower water they canoe and move around in. It is advisable to wear a helmet when canoeing so that it can protect your ears and head from any bumps or hits to rocks when capsizing and under water.

Ear drum Rupture

Hitting rocks, or your kayak itself if you are thrown out quickly on a faced paced river could cause a rupture to your ear drum, as well as pain immediate dizziness from exposing the middle ear to cold water can also occur. 

If you are concerned you have injured your ear while kayaking it is important to see your doctor or GP for an ear examination.

Prevention Tips for Kayakers and Their Ears

  • Wear a helmet that is designed for kayaking and meets the CE EN1385 Water Sports Safety Standard.
  • If you kayak regularly in cold water - custom made ear plugs are more expensive than generic ear plugs but will be a good investment at preventing water entering your ear canal at all, keeping them warm and dry.
  • Learning to roll your kayak will help save time when you come off your kayak and reduce your ears being unnecessarily irrigated. 
  • If your more of an occasional canoeist using the generic shop bought plugs is do-able, however the additional use of a neoprene headband or hood will help keep your ear plugs in as well as give extra protection to your ears.
  • Using a neoprene liner for your helmet will help keep the water around your ear warmer.
  • Keep your ear plugs with your wetsuit, ready to hand. Keep your ears toasty warm outside of the water, using a hood up/beanie/woollen hat when out in the cold

Buff & Headband For Ear Protection

It's a good idea to keep your ears protected from cold wind, especially if you kayak in colder climates and your ears are exposed to the elements. Putting a buff headband under your helmet and over your ears will give you another barrier of protection from the elements and protect your hearing and ears.

The good thing about a buff is that if you do capsize, when you are back up and sat in your kayak it should dry out very quickly and continue to protect your ears.

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Helmets for Kayaking

When looking for a excellent helmet for kayaking you want one with a stiff outer shell and dense shock absorption inside. The helmet needs to have adjustability to make sure it will stay firmly in place. When kayaking you learn to build up balance as your likely to rotate and wobble a lot so a sturdy stable helmet is an important factor.

Gul Evo 2 Watersports Helmet

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The Gul Evo 2 Helmet is comes in three sizes, Junior, S/M and Large. The Gul Evo 2 uses a super high impact and lightweight ABS T-Shock outer shell. Inside the helmet features an interior high density impact absorption foam which provides further shock absorption and a snug fit of the helmet. This has to be one of the strongest helmets we have seen in any watersports.

The helmet can be adjusted at the back with an Aculock wheel cetre fitting system to fit your head perfectly. The internal liner is removable and so are the ear protectors. The ear protectors are soft padded cups that will keep your ears warm and prevent against abrasions however it will be the helmet itself that will have to take the impact if you hit your head as the outer shell does not cover your ears. The Gul Evo 2 meets the CE EN 1385 Water Sports Safety Standard.

Osprey Unisex Helmet

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The Osprey Helmet comes in three sizes small, medium and large as well as coming in a choice of red and blue colours. Therre is adjustment to the back of the helmet to tighten to your head and the chin strap provides a comfortable chin rest and further adjustment. Making it a comfortable and secure helmet to wear while kayaking.

The interior uses a heat pressed EVA impact absorption material. There are hard plastic ear protectors either side that fit the rim of your ear while the centre of your ear is fully ventilated. It isn't going to stop complete flushing of your ear therefore it is a really good idea to wear ear plugs with the helmet. The helmet also boasts a great deal of ventillation making it feel very open. Wwith top, front and rear vents for cooling, improving circulation and easy water drainage.

This helmet meets CE EN1385 Water Sports Safety Standard.

bluewave waterports helmet

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The bluewave lightweight watersports helmet is made from a resilient ABS hardened plastic with an impact absorption liner. This is a stylish looking helmet with matt finish.

There are 11 ventillation holes and and the ear is fully open with plastic ear protection around the rim of the ear. This helmet will require you to wear ear plugs to prevent water from fully flushing the side of your head and getting in to your ears.

This helmet comes in three sizes, small, medium and large. It can be further adjusted using the micro ratchet at the back and adjustable chin strap.

This helmet meets the CE 1385 Water Sports Safety Standard.

Ear Plugs for Kayaking

Wearing a good quality helmet will definitely help reduce the chances of hitting your head on the kayak, rocks or river bank. The problem is a helmet will still allow water into your ear, so for extra caution, using ear plugs will also help. Preventing water getting into your ears completely will protect your ears.When it comes to finding the right ear plugs, there are many options out there but you need to find the ones specifically designed with kayaking in mind.

docs pro plugs

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The docs pro plugs are a discreet pair of ear plugs as they are clear, they do come with a leash in case they do fall out you can reel them back in.  One of the main reasons ear plugs are important is to reduce the slam of water pressure when you hit the water so you need strong ear plugs. These are made from a hard wearing silicone material . They are washable and reuseable and come in the option of eight different sizes to match your ear size. There are also small vents in the ear plugs to keep the same air pressure inside your ear that is outside your ear. These pro plugs also help to keep your ears warm by storing the head's conductive heat and to stop the flushing of water in and out, which will eventually make your inner ear cold.

hot surf 69 putty

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The Hot Surf 69 silcone putty is a different ball game altogether, with these you mould the putty to your ear before you surf.

Again due to you doing this yourself and you can't see your ear you will need to take time to do this to check it is fully sealed your ear. The box comes with  6 balls of putty so if you mess up the first try you have the option for another go. There are other branded silicone putty ear buds which will work just as well if that is what you are after.

surfears ear plugs

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Now when it comes to non custom made ear plugs, I have to say the SurfEars 2.0 are a serious contender. This comes as a whole package for you to try out different sizes that work for you. It comes in a small carry case with a clip and your ear plugs are attached to each other with a lanyard to prevent them getting lost in the sea if they come out. Just attach this to your zip cord or to the neck of your wetsuit and you should never lose them.

You can really tell a lot of thought has gone into the design element as well as the processing and production of these ear plugs. My only query is the slight delicate nature of them. At first go, these really did do the trick, the bud comes in three sizes and as I have small ear canals the smallest size worked best for me.


The best solution to protect your ears while using a helmet is to get custom fit made ear moulds.  Although these do need you to have an impression of your ear taken, this means the ear moulds themselves will match your ear correctly. An ear impression will take into account each contour and unique bumps and shapes of your ear.

What you will find is because they match your ear shape correctly they will also be much more comfortable in your ear as well as keeping your ear fully sealed for water. The custom fit also has the ability to stay within your ear better and most custom made ear moulds will come with a lanyard to connect to your wetsuit if they do fall out. The major things to consider with custom made ear plugs is the price and booking yourself in with an audiologist to get an impression taken and over time you will need to have them re made as your ears slowly grow. If kayaking is your world then custom moulds really are the way to go.

Surfer's Ear Explained by Surf Plugs
Surfer's Ear Surgery by Shohet Associates

Quick Tips

Your hearing aid will need regular servicing generally every 6 months by your hearing care professional.