Best Ear Protection for Canoeist

How can Canoeing affect your ears

Surfers Ear (Exostoses)

Regular rolling of your canoe 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. 

With better tecnology making thicker wetsuits and neoprene accesories on the market more people are canoeing 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, canoiests 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 canoeing it is important to see your doctor or GP for an ear examination

Prevention Tips for Canoeists and their ears

  • Use a helmet that is designed for canoeing and meets the CE EN 1385 Water Sport Safety Standard.
  • Know your canoe route. If you are doing a particular river pass, then check it out on a mapping app before hand to be appear of sudden rock formations or drop offs.
  • Pratice your canoe roll, the more efficient this is then the better chance your ears have of not being unnecessarily irrigated.
  • If you canoe 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.
  • If your more of a 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 neopren liner under your hood while canoeing to 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

Best Helmets & Ear Protection For Canoeing

When looking for a excellent helmet for canoeing 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 canoeing your likely to rotate and wobble a lot and that is before you canoe down a fast paced river.


Mystic MK8 Canoe Helmet

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The Mystic MK 8 is a very comfortable helmet with mesh lining and a highly dense polyethylene shell which is a high impact thermo plastic, meaing this is one solid shell helmet. Suitable for an aggressive wave rider. There are vents in the shell that help ventilate and let water circulate. It is a well constructed helmet with stainless steel rivets and soft padding on the inside. This helmet meets the CE EN 1385 Water Sport Safety Standard.

The strap on the chin is a simple swipe of the fingers to attach and remove your helmet helping to add to it's simplicity, it is also a very comfortable chin strap with a small amount of padding for comfort. It is of solid construction and detachable ear cups come as part of the helmet, it is recommend you keep them attached! These ear cups are made from neoprene and are designed to protect your ears, keep them a little warmer and prevent you from developing surfer's ear as you roll your canoe in the water as well as protect your head if you hit some rocks. There is though, no hard protection over the ears, therefore a direct hit to the ear is still going to hurt if it's a big impact.

Nexus Watersports Helmet

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The Nexus Watersports Helmet is a simple looking but actually well designed helmet, excellent for beginners and occasional canoeists. The price for this helmet is not half bad either. There are 11 air vents around the helmet that allow good air flow and vent for water to escape. The outer shell is made from a ABS harderned plastic.

At the back of the helmet is a ratchet strap to tighten to your head to make it more secure which is important while on a bumpy choppy river or open sea. There is also an easy click clip release to the chin strap. The interior of the helmet uses a heat pressed EVA impact absorption liner that will help to take the brunt of any fall from the canoe onto rocks, a river bank or the canoe hitting you.

This helmet also has detachable ear protection with comfortable padding and small holed ventillation. This helmet is CE approved to EN1385.

Palm AP2000 Yellow Helmet

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The Palm AP2000 Helmet is a full-cut helmet‚ injection moulded in polypropylene for impact protection with an easy to operate ratchet inner cradle for a secure and comfortable fit. The helmet has good ventilation to the top of the helmet and to the ears. This partcular model is bright yellow there are three other colour options available, all of which are brightly coloured.

What I do like about this helmet is the incorporated ear protection, it isn't detachable so you'll either love or hate it, however its harderned exterior makes sure your ears are as protected as the rest of your head. The large ear vents make sure conversation and important instructions are not missed. This helmet is not the most warm and cosy helmet so for further warmth you may want to buy a neoprene liner cap to go with it.

Ear Plugs for Canoeing

Wearing a good quality helmet will definitely help reduce the chances of hitting your head on the canoe, rocks or river bank. The problem is a hood 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 surfing 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 head to your canoe. These are a cheap and cheerful option.

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 canoeing 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

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