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Best Ear Protection for Dinghy Sailor
How can Sailing a Dingy affect your ears
Ear Drum Rupture
The mast hitting you hard straight at the ear, or suddenly landing in the water while going at a high speed has the potential to rupture to your ear drum, as well as pain and immediate dizziness from exposing the middle ear to cold water can also occur.
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.
With better tecnology making thicker wetsuits and neoprene accesories on the market more people are getting in colder waters and in winter months than ever before, increasing the risk of surfers ear.
If you are concerned you may have damaged your ear during sailing you will need to consult your GP for an ear examination.
Prevention Tips for Dinghy Sailor
- Know your boat, knowing how your boat responds in all weather conditions, how far the mast goes will make you fully aware of where is safest to position yourself
- Use a helmet designed for dinghy sailing that meets the CE EN1385 Water Sports Safety Standard.
- Pratice capsizing, this will make you much more confident on the boat and less likely for you to get injured in the process.
- Plan your route, be aware of shallow reefs, or rocky grounds as well as timing your return and knowledge of the wind. Advanced planning allows for less accidents to occur while out at sea.
- If you sail 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 sailor 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.
- Keep your ear plugs with your sailing gear, ready to hand.
- Keep your ears toasty warm outside of the water, using a hood up/beanie/woollen hat when out in the cold
Helmets for Dinghy Sailing
If you are a dinghy sailor you will know how important it is to wear a helmet, aspects such as the mast hitting you on the head, gliding into some rocks can make for a horrible accident. As we urge to go faster and faster, the increased risk of trauma becomes higher. In regards to protecting your ears, a good helmet will help provent against your sail splicing your ear, a sudden perforated ear drum and even surfers ear are all things to be aware of when on the water. Additionally the occurance of "brain freeze" is common while wind surfing in cold water, so a good helmet and hooded jacket that helps to insulate your head and protect from wind chill is what you need.
The Forward Pro WIP Sailing Helmet is a specifically designed dinghy sailing helmet. The outer shell is made with In-Mould technology where a thin skin of polycarbonate is co-injected with polystyrene foam. This is a very lightweight helmet at 330g in weight and added with the amount of ventillation holes within the helmet makes it a very comfortable sailing helmet. The design and shape to the helmet is stylish and likeable that makes it a sailing fashion accessory as well as sailing safety necesity.
To the back of the helmet allows you to make it fit correctly to your head by turning a small ratchet knob tighter. There is no intergrated ear protection, which for us, lets this helmet down. However with its strength yet lightweightness of this helmet, we think this is a worth while helmet for sailing.
The Forward Wipper is another in the Forward family of helmets for sailing. This one is designed with detachable ear pieces which makes us happy! The outer shell is made from a solid robust construction. The interior of the helmet uses a closed cell foam padding. There is a velcro band across the back to adjust the fit, this is not as sophisticated as the PRO WIP model helmet however it will still help to snuggly fit to your head aswell as a large chin strap adjustment.
To the front of the helmet is a small built in sun visor for sailing out on a sunny day. There is also no worry of your ears getting burnt with the intergrated ear pieces. The ear pieces are made from the same impact absorption material within the helmet and incorporate 11 small ventillation holes either side. This helmet meets CE EN1385 Water Sports Safety Standards too.
The Gath Surf Convertible helmet, is an ultra light helmet which is close fitting. It comes in two different sizes, I would recommend ordering the size up as it can feel very tight on the head, it provides a snug suction cap fit to the head. The helmet at 280 to 305 g is one of the lightest available, the shell is made from a hard and strong plastic with ABS plastic coating. All the screws and rivets are made from strong non corrosive salt water resistant materials. It's always good to routinely rinse your gear after playing in the ocean to help it last longer and thus protect you better as well.
It is called a surf 'convertible' because you can remove the ear protectors, this is to provide you with more comfort and hearing in warm waters. You can remove the ear protection but you want to keep your ears warm and protected as possible, I would recommended keeping your 'convertible' helmet, 'converted', especially here in the UK. There is an audio adjustable vent to the ear protectors so you can open them to allow sound to pass through or on very cold windy days keep the vents closed. To remove the ear pieces requires loosening the straps around the ear pieces and detaching from the velcro at the top. The ear protectors act as a smooth outer extension to your helmet either side of your head, protecting your ear from damage with its hard outer shell covering.
The chin strap is adjustable and comfortable and comes with a quick release buckle. The helmet generally comes with extra comfort strips to use at the back of the helmet to make it even more snug if needed, a storage bag and also a 3 year warranty comes as standard.
Ear Plugs for Wind Surfing
Wearing a good quality helmet will definitely help reduce the chances of head and inner ear trauma occuring within your ear as the helmet will help to take the brunt of it, the problem occurs with your ear canal still being exposed to flushing or option hitting the centre of your ear when this part is exposed.
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 dinghy sailing in mind.
The docs pro plugs. These 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.
The Hot Surf 69 silcone putty is a different ball game altogether, with these you mould the putty to your ear before you surf. These ear plugs are a cheap and cheerful option for an occasional sailor.
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 on Amazon which will work just as well if that is what you are after.
Now when it comes to non custom made ear plugs, I have to say the SurfEars 2.0 (link is external) 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 dinghy sailing is your world then custom moulds really are the way to go.