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Why earplugs don't affect your hearing under water

Your head turns into one great big ear

Matthew Alice: Why can I still hear underwater when I wear earplugs to keep water out of my ears? — Jake, swimming

I can understand your confusion. You certainly can’t smell underwater when you wear a nose clip to keep water out of your nose.... Anyway, when you’re underwater, sound waves zip very efficiently through the water you’re swimming in and into the water that makes up a large part of your head. (A goodly percentage of the human body is water. So basically your head turns into one great big ear. That also helps explain why it’s difficult to judge where a sound is coming from when you’re underwater. When sound travels through air, it will generally strike one ear sooner than the other, giving us a clue to direction.

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Matthew Alice: Why can I still hear underwater when I wear earplugs to keep water out of my ears? — Jake, swimming

I can understand your confusion. You certainly can’t smell underwater when you wear a nose clip to keep water out of your nose.... Anyway, when you’re underwater, sound waves zip very efficiently through the water you’re swimming in and into the water that makes up a large part of your head. (A goodly percentage of the human body is water. So basically your head turns into one great big ear. That also helps explain why it’s difficult to judge where a sound is coming from when you’re underwater. When sound travels through air, it will generally strike one ear sooner than the other, giving us a clue to direction.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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