So I received this package of Mack’s AquaBlock earplugs from Allearplugs.com, promising in return to test and review them. I have tried swimming medley strokes and turns with them, with and without a swim cap, and found them both comfortable and well-fitting. I then tried swimming continuously with them for about 1500 meters, and had dry ear canals up until at least the 800 meter mark. And I let my 10-year-old son try them out, who managed 100 meters without any problem.
Not knowing what to expect, I opted to start out without a plan, other than to swim for a while to see how it was. And as I forgot to put them in before the shower, and somehow managed to lose one earplug already during the first length of the pool, my first test session was soon reduced to only testing comfort and whether they would come loose.
Having never tried earplugs like these before, I was initially surprised by the level of noise coming from water rushing past my ears. I expected them to dampen the sound, but instead found that it was more like when you swim with a swim cap. A bit louder than when you swim with just water in and around your ears, but not annoyingly so.
Other than that, they are very comfortable. I guess that I expected to feel them sitting there in my ears throughout the swim, but discovered that I pretty much didn’t feel them at all, especially after having swum for a while. There is that heightened ‘swim cap’ sound, but other than that, I don’t really notice them.
One thing I found out while fooling around with the GoPro, was that they dampen your above-water hearing a bit. If you know the sound level of the standard GoPro beeps, you know that it is quite dampening when you wonder whether there was a beep or not. And I had this confirmed when I the day after let my son try them on, and discovered that he had trouble hearing my instructions.
I swam mostly crawl, open turns and tumble turns, but also backstroke, breaststroke and a bit of butterfly. I swam most of this first test in a swim cap, but tried also without it towards the end of the session, without any problem. It feels like they are more exposed without the cap, but they stayed put nonetheless.
A second opinion
The day after, I let my 10-year-old son try them on, to see if that worked. It was a really short test of about 6 lengths, where he got to try to put them on, and swam crawl without any problems keeping them in. He had already swum for about an hour with the swim team, so again here we couldn’t test whether they kept his ear canal dry. Only whether they stayed put.
A longer test
A few days later, I went back to test how well they keep the water out, this time taking care to put them in before the shower. I went for one long 1500 meter swim, alternating between 200 crawl and 100 backstroke or breaststroke, and forgot to bring the swim cap. The plan was to not touch the earplugs before I hit 1500 meters.
It all went very well until about 800 meters. The ear canals dry, the noise level not that bad, and overall feeling that the earplugs where even more comfortable than during the first test, maybe because I had gotten used to them. Once or twice it felt like the stems of the earplugs brushed past my shoulders, but other than that, it was like a regular swim in a swim cap.
Then at around 900 meters, it felt like maybe a drop of water started seeping into my left ear. First I wasn’t sure, but then it started to wash back and forth in the ear canal, and then around 1100 it started in my right ear too. After the swim (and shower and towelling down), I could confirm that there was water also on the ‘inside’ of the earplugs.
Not being an expert here, I don’t know if this is a problem except for those who really, really need to keep their ear canals dry. It was only a drop or two in each ears, after about 800 meters, and maybe I could have prevented it by securing the earplugs better, or by allowing myself to secure them once in a while throughout the swim, or by wearing a swim cap.
A few days later, I did a third test like the second, this time though going ‘all in’ on making sure the earplugs were really plugged into my ears, and remembering to bring a swim cap. I swam a (for me) hard 1500 crawl, and am quite sure my right ear stayed dry throughout the swim, while the left one got a bit wet because (doub!) the swim cap pulled the earplug a bit out. A learning experience, but I feel that I am getting there.
All in all, I would say that these earplugs passed the test. You shouldn’t expect miracles, but they are quite good at doing what they are supposed to, and quite comfortable too. I managed to swim continuously for at least 800 meters with my ears dry, and might manage more with a bit of practice.
Thanks to Allearplugs.com for letting me do this test, and to Jákup for being a good sport.
If you want to read more about swimmer’s ear, you could read this guest post from a few weeks ago: “Avoiding Swimmer’s Ear This Summer”