Swimming with Ear Tubes: Risks, Precautions, and Safe Practices

Ever wondered if you can swim with tubes in your ears? It’s a common question, especially among parents of children who’ve undergone ear tube surgery. You’re not alone in this, and we’re here to provide some clarity.

Ear tubes, also known as tympanostomy tubes, are tiny cylinders placed through the ear drum to allow air into the middle ear. They’re often used to treat chronic ear infections or hearing loss in children. But does their presence restrict water activities?

We’ll dive into this topic, exploring the do’s and don’ts of swimming with ear tubes. From precautions to take, to the potential risks involved, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s plunge in and find out more about swimming with tubes in your ears.

Key Takeaways

  • Ear tubes, or tympanostomy tubes, are small devices placed into the ear canal to treat recurrent ear infections or hearing loss, usually in children.
  • The procedure is simple and the tubes generally fall out on their own in 6-9 months, as the patient’s condition improves.
  • Swimming with ear tubes is not necessarily prohibited. After the initial healing period, most doctors allow swimming with some precautions.
  • Children with ear tubes should avoid swimming too deep as pressure changes can allow bacteria-filled water to enter the middle ear via the tube, increasing the risk of infection.
  • Appropriate ear protection is crucial when swimming with tubes in the ears. Moldable silicone earplugs, coupled with ear bands, provide effective protection.
  • Chlorinated pools are safer for children with ear tubes compared to natural bodies of water which may have a higher bacterial load.
  • It is always advisable to consult with a doctor before resuming swimming after an ear tube procedure.

Swimming with ear tubes can be safe if proper precautions are taken; for instance, using earplugs to prevent water from entering the ear canal is highly recommended by healthcare professionals, as detailed in this WebMD article. Additionally, it is essential to understand the risks associated with swimming after ear tube placement, including potential infections and the dislodging of the tubes, which Mayo Clinic discusses thoroughly. For safe practices, consulting with an ENT specialist before taking the plunge is advisable, as they can provide personalized recommendations based on individual health conditions, a point further elaborated by ENT Health.

What are Ear Tubes?

Let’s delve a bit deeper into what ear tubes actually are. Ear tubes, scientifically known as tympanostomy tubes, are tiny devices placed into the ear canal during a common surgical procedure. They offer vital relief to children and, in some cases, adults suffering from persistent ear infections and hearing problems.

The tubes perform a critical function: they facilitate airflow into the middle ear and allow any accumulated fluid to drain away. This process helps maintain equal pressure on both sides of the ear drum, which is essential for normal hearing.

So why are they used? Often these tiny lifesavers are recommended when a person – most commonly a child – suffers from recurrent middle ear infections (otitis media) or hearing loss caused by the persistent buildup of fluid in the middle ear. Both conditions can be quite distressing and, if left untreated, can lead to complications.

An ear tube procedure is usually carried out under general anesthesia, and it’s a quick, routine surgery. The surgeon makes a tiny incision in the patient’s eardrum and places the tube into the tiny opening. That’s it.

The tubes are not permanent. Over time, as the patient’s condition improves, they typically fall out on their own. On average, they stay in place for six to nine months. If they don’t fall out naturally, they may be surgically removed by a doctor.

After the procedure, some individuals might need to take precautions to prevent any complications – one primary concern being swimming with tubes in the ears. In the next part of this article, we’ll provide key insights into the dos and don’ts of swimming after having an ear tube surgery. Many will be surprised by the advice.

Swimming with Ear Tubes: Dos and Don’ts

Navigating the waters, both figurative and literal, of swimming with ear tubes can feel like uncharted territory. Yet it’s not something you should shy away from – many parents and healthcare professionals have navigated these waters before. Let’s explore some key dos and don’ts to keep in mind while swimming with tubes in your ears.

Start on a positive note; Do remember that swimming is not necessarily off-limits just because your child has ear tubes. Indeed, countless children all over the world swim with tubes in their ears. Following surgery, once the initial healing period is over, usually a few weeks, many doctors give the green light for swimming.

Having said that, it’s essential to highlight – Don’t let your child go too deep underwater. Pressure changes at depths can potentially allow bacteria-filled water to enter the middle ear through the tube, increasing the risk of infection. This is particularly applicable in lakes where the water may not be as clean.

Now – a rule that can feel a counter-intuitive. Do allow your child’s ears to get wet when shielded appropriately. Swimming on the surface, especially in chlorinated pools, is mostly safe for children with ear tubes.

Despite this, remember – Don’t forget to use the right ear protection. Opt for moldable silicone earplugs, which can conform to your child’s unique ear shape. In addition, consider an ear band to keep the plugs in place. Your doctor can provide the best advice on the most suitable products for your child.

Precautions to Take

Safety is fundamental when it comes to swimming with ear tubes. You’re allowed, but you need to tread carefully. After all, you don’t want to have any mishaps, right? Here are some handy protective measures you need to consider.

Remember depth triggers pressure changes. You’ve got to keep it shallow. No deep-sea diving for you. See, it’s the pressure, not the water itself that’s potentially harmful. Deep water can push bacteria through the tubes and cause an infection.

Proper ear protection is non-negotiable when swimming with tubes in your ears. Use moldable silicone earplugs but do not stop there. Invest in ear bands. These are additional protective gear designed to keep water out of the ear. It’s like your two-piece suit for water defense. Together, they provide a pretty solid combination, safeguarding your ears against potential water threats.

Keep in mind that not all activities are appropriate, though. Stay away from rough water activities. Activities like cannonball dives and water polo might be fun, but they’re risky for someone with ear tubes. It’s just not worth the risk.

Interestingly, chlorinated pools can be your best friend. You see, chlorinated water is less likely to carry bacteria. So, whenever you have a choice, opt for pools over natural bodies of water.

Always check with your doctor before getting back to the pool though. The healing process post-surgery varies from person to person and hearing your doctor’s go-ahead will put your safety concerns at ease.

Risks of Swimming with Tubes in Your Ears

While ear tubes can aid in the drainage of fluid from your middle ear, swimming with them presents certain risks. These risks range from discomfort to severe infections. Understanding these risks can help you make informed decisions about your water-based activities.

Primarily, swimming allows water to enter the ear canal. Even with ear tubes, that water can carry bacteria directly into the middle ear. This increases the risk of ear infections, commonly referred to as swimmer’s ear.

Moreover, certain aquatic activities pose a higher risk than others. Deep-sea diving, for example, involves sudden pressure changes. Such fluctuations can push bacteria-rich water into your ear, leading to potential ear infections. Similarly, dynamic and aggressive water movements like in water polo or cannonball dives might cause water to breach even the best ear protection.

Additionally, the type of water you’re swimming in matters. Chlorinated pools are generally safer compared to natural bodies of water. Lakes, rivers, and seas may have higher bacterial loads, increasing the chance of infections.

To avoid these risks, certain precautions are advisable. Moldable silicone earplugs and ear bands help to keep the water out. However, their effectiveness can be undermined if they do not fit your ears correctly. To ensure a good fit, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and consult with a professional if necessary.

Above all, seek medical advice. Your doctor would be able to assess the overall health of your ears and provide personalised advice. This is all the more crucial if you’ve recently undergone an ear tube procedure.


So, can you swim with tubes in your ears? Absolutely! But it’s not without its precautions. Remember, the key is to keep water out of your ears to prevent potential infections. Using moldable silicone earplugs and ear bands can be your best bet. Always opt for chlorinated pools over natural bodies of water, as they’re less likely to harbor bacteria. And don’t forget the importance of a proper fit for your ear protection. Most importantly, always consult your doctor after surgery for personalized advice on safe swimming. With the right precautions, you can enjoy your swim without worrying about your ear tubes. Dive in, the water’s fine!

1. Can I swim if I have ear tubes?

Yes, you can swim with ear tubes. However, it’s important to take precautionary measures like using moldable silicone earplugs and ear bands to prevent water entry. Always ensure proper fit of ear protection.

2. Are all bodies of water equally safe for swimming?

No, it’s advised to swim in chlorinated pools over natural bodies of water. Natural bodies of water are more likely to contain bacteria that can infiltrate the middle ear through the tubes, thus increasing the risk of infections.

3. Why is swimming risky for people with ear tubes?

Swimming can introduce water into the ear canal, which may harbour bacteria. These bacteria can potentially invade the middle ear through the tubes, increasing the possibility of swimmer’s ear.

4. How can I prevent swimmer’s ear?

Preventing swimmer’s ear involves impeding the entry of water into the ear canal. This can be achieved by using moldable silicone earplugs or ear bands.

5. When should I consult a doctor?

Post-surgery consultation with a doctor is recommended for individual-specific advice on swimming safely with ear tubes. Additionally, you should also see a doctor if you experience any discomfort or symptoms of an ear infection.