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Best Ear Protection for Windsurfers
In this article we look at the best ear protection for wind surfing in all seasons, this includes winter and spring, the coldest months to surf and summer and autumn. In the UK all year round is seen as cold water wind surfing and keeping your head and ears warm can really improve the enjoyment of the sport and the time you spend in the water.
How Can Windsurfing 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.
- Surfers Ear
Regular exposure to cold wind and 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 cases when the growths begin to close the ear canal, causing deafness, surgery is required to remove them. The combination of both cold wind and cold water in windsurfing increases the refrigeration affect within the ear that causes Surfers Ear.
With better wind surf tecnology, thicker wetsuits and new neoprene accesories on the market, more people are wind surfing 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 wind surfing you will need to consult your GP for an ear examination.
- Windsurfing means cold water and cold wind - most importantly keep your head warm
- If you surf regularly in cold water - custom made ear plugs are more expensive than generic ear plugs but will be worth the investment.
- If your more of a occasional surfer 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 hood anyway while Surfing 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
If you are a windsurfer 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. 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. Additionally the occurance of "brain freeze" is common while wind surfing in cold water, so a good helmet that helps to insulate your head and protect from wind chill is what you need.
Helmets For Wind Surfing
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 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 tcome 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 bursting your ear drum as your slam into the water, this is a really important feature to wind surfing helmets because of the speed at which you can fall. There is though, no hard protection over the ears, therefore a bash from a sail or mast on to the ear is still going to hurt.
The protec classic full cut water helmet is designed for keen water sports enthusiasts. The outer shell is made from a high density injected mould plastic. What I really like about this helmet is that it extends down to your ears, which means you get a more secure coverage all over the head and side of the ears too. There are 17 vents around the helmet which help your head breathe and let water pass through.
The protec classic full cut water helmet also boasts a 'Stay Tight Interior Fit System' or S.T.I.F.S as it is otherwise known that means you are able to fully adjust the helmet at the back, making it usuable for a range of head sizes and it also means that your can fully secure it to the best it could possibly be to your head. The strap underneath round your chip again is also adjustable however this is not the most comfortable of straps with no padding so there is a chance of rubbing. This helmet is also the CE EN 1385 Water Sport Safety Standard.
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.
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 if you remove them, again as that is limited in the UK and you want to keep your ears warm and protected as possible I would recommended keeping your 'convertible' helmet, 'converted'. 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 hood will definitely help reduce the chances of bony growths developing within your ear as the hood will help to keep the water entering your ear warmer than the actual temperature of the sea water. 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.
For the cheap and cheerful option there are 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.
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 (link is external) 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 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. If you have tried generic ear plugs and have still yet to find them to seal your ear properly then these are a must for an avid wind surfer.
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 surfing is your world then custom moulds really are the way to go.