Should a Swim Cap Cover Ears?

Swimming caps are a ubiquitous sight at pools across the world. But many recreational swimmers don’t consider factors like proper cap fit and coverage when popping one on. Specifically, should your cap stretch over your ears or leave them sticking out?

Swim caps should at least partially cover ears to reduce drag during competitions. For no-competitive swimming activities covering ears can be uncomfortable for some users but it is generally a personal choice.

While swim caps keep hair contained, reduce drag, and protect locks from chlorine damage, most of them are not designed with the aim to protect your ears. If you prefer to cover your ears consider using swim caps with ear pockets/flaps or alternative methods like ear plugs for added ear protection while swimming.

Reasons to Cover Ears with a Cap

Here are the benefits gained by having your cap extend over your ears:

  • Keeps ears warm in cold pool water or open water swims. Uncovered ears can get painfully chilled over time.
  • Protects ears from potential infections or swimmer’s ear from bacteria in the water. Covering ears provides a barrier.
  • Reduces drag by covering protruding ears that interrupt water flow. The streamlined head shape helps you swim faster.
  • Prevents cap creeping upward during laps. Ears help anchor the cap in place so it doesn’t shift off the back of your head.
  • For some, swim caps help to keep bugs and sun off their heads when swimming outside.
  • Provides better overall coverage and fit. The cap stays put better when stretched fully over your ears.

For these reasons, competitive swimmers(gold medalists) including Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel, Ariarne Titmus almost always opt for a snug cap with ear coverage.

Olympic champion swimmer cover their ear with swim caps
Ariarne Titmus and Caeleb Dressel

The warmth and hydrodynamics matter when racing. If you deal with cold ears or swim outdoors, covering up is also important.

Katie Ledecky
K. Ledecky

However, some people find covering their ears with a swim cap very uncomfortable and distracting during distance events, and leisure swimming sessions.

Every time, without fail, water would find a way to trickle in, and would be swishing around in there for some time.

Another downside of completely covering your ears, especially during training sessions, is that you may not hear clearly-instructions and tips from your coach or teammates.

Tips for Getting Ear Coverage From Your Cap

Getting a swimming cap to cover your ears starts with choosing the right size. Here are some pointers:

  • Size up if needed to get adequate ear and headroom in your cap.
  • Gently stretch the cap before putting it on for more give.
  • Check ear placement after putting the cap on. Make sure they are covered.
  • Tug the cap downward in the back to pull it securely over your ears.
  • Try a cap style with ear flaps/pockets or extra back length to make coverage easier.

Don’t rely on myopia! Visually verify your ears are under the cap, not sticking out. A snug fit ensures the cap won’t slide up and expose them later.

Further Reading: How to Put on a Swim Cap Properly

Are Swim Caps with Ear Pockets Effective?

Swim caps with ear pockets are designed to provide extra comfort and protection for the ears while swimming. These pockets cover and enclose the ears, creating a barrier between the water and the ear canal. This helps prevent water from entering the ears during swimming, reducing the risk of infections such as swimmer’s ear.

Ear Protection Swim cap
Lahtak 3d cap for ear protection

Additionally, swim caps with ear pockets are often made from materials that offer a snug fit around the head and ears, ensuring comfort and preventing unwanted movement of the cap while in use.

They can be a good option for swimmers who want added moisture prevention and increased ear protection during their swims.

However, it is important to keep in mind that swim caps with ear pockets may not be 100% effective in keeping all water out of your ears.

The fit and comfort of these swim caps also vary from person to person. Some swimmers may experience discomfort or pressure on their ears when wearing a swim cap that covers them. This can happen if the swim cap is too tight or if it doesn’t fit properly.

To make your swimming experience better, it is a good idea to try different types of swim caps with ear pockets and find one that fits well and feels comfortable for you.

When Ear Coverage Doesn’t Matter

For some casual swimming situations, keeping your ears covered in a cap isn’t as crucial:

  • In heated indoor pools, ear warmth isn’t an issue.
  • During very short swims of just a few laps or lengths.
  • If your ears don’t get cold easily in the first place.
  • If your cap tends to creep upward no matter what.
  • At water parks for play rather than structured laps.

Use your judgment on when ear coverage is needed or not for your particular swimming needs.

Special Considerations for Covering Ears

A few extra pointers to keep in mind:

  • Take extra care to cover your ears if prone to swimmer’s ear infections.
  • Some kids dislike caps over their ears initially. Ease them into it.
  • Adjustable strap caps can help keep the cap anchored over the ears.
  • Long hair helps weigh the cap down in the back for better ear coverage.

Again, getting the right snug cap size and stretch is key to keeping ears covered while swimming.

Do Swim Caps Keep Water Out of Ears?

While some people wear them to help keep water out of their ears, swim caps are not made specifically to keep water out of the ears. As mentioned earlier, their main purpose is to reduce drag in the water and protect hair from chlorine and other chemicals.

If you end up with some water in your ears, then try lifting the cap off of your ears while your head is out of water so that you let some water out. Always wear a cap that fits properly and feels comfortable.

Alternatives to Caps for Ear Coverage

If you just can’t get a cap to stay put over your ears, consider:

  • Neoprene headbands to cover the ears.
  • Ear plugs for swimmers to keep water out.
  • Wetsuit hoods for full ear and head insulation.

So take stock of your needs. Make sure to cover those ears with your swimming cap if warmth or protection is a concern for you.

But in some cases, it’s no big deal to let those ears stick out and feel the breeze. It ultimately comes down to personal preference and comfort. Just know the considerations for the best ear-to-ear cap coverage.

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