What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Who doesn’t love jumping in the closest pool or body of water to cool off during the heat of the summer? Swimming is the 4th most sport in the United States, and it’s a great way to keep fit! Frequent time in the water, however, can increase your risk of developing swimmer’s ear. In our blog, we’re looking at what swimmer’s ear is and how you can protect yourself.

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear, or “otitis externa”, is a painful of ear infection that involves the ear canal. It is typically caused by water getting trapped inside the ear. Your ear is a dark and warm place, making it an ideal home for bacteria.

When bacteria in the water is trapped in your ear, it can result in an infection of the skin in the ear canal. Left untreated, this infection can be very painful.

Anyone is susceptible to swimmer’s ear, but children are particularly prone as their ear canals are narrower. Swimmers are 5 times more likely to develop swimmer’s ear, hence the name!

Common Causes of Swimmer’s Ear

There are a few primary causes of swimmer’s ear: 

  • Trapped moisture from showering or bathing. Trips to the pond/lake/beach/swimming pool or from moist or humid environments.
  • Contact with excessive bacteria present in hot tubs or polluted water.
  • Scratches or cuts within the ear. These can be caused by aggressive cleaning (particularly with Q-tips).
  • Damage to the skin of the ear canal, such as the damage caused by skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, or seborrhea.
  • Contact with certain chemicals such as hair dye or hairspray.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear

Initially, symptoms of swimmer’s ear are mild. If the infection is left untreated, symptoms can progressively worsen. The first signs of swimmer’s ear that you notice is likely to be itching and redness. This can result in your ear becoming inflamed and painful. The pain may at times be severe, and worsened if the ear is moved or touched (for example, when you’re lying on a pillow). Jaw pain is a common symptom, due to the number of nerves that link the base of the brain through the ear canal, the jaw, and down to the diaphragm.

Other symptoms may include: 

  • A full or clogged feeling in the affected ear.
  • Fluid draining from the affected ear.
  • Decreased or muffled hearing.
  • Fever and swollen lymph nodes can occur in severe cases.

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear 

The most effective way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to keep your ears as dry as possible. You may want to consider the use of ear plugs, or even a bathing cap or hood when you’re swimming.

When you’ve finished in the water, turn your head to the side and gently pull on your earlobe to help excess water drain. Gently dry your ears with a towel; do not try to clear out your ears by putting a foreign object in there.

If you suspect you may have swimmer’s ear, we recommend booking in an appointment with your healthcare practitioner. Left untreated, the infection can continue. Your hearing should return to normal after treatment. If you’d like to discuss further or to book in a hearing assessment, give the Audionics NYC team a call on 212-755-5100 today.

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Ready to start your journey to better hearing? Let our hearing care professionals find the right solution for you. If this sounds like you or a loved one, we can help. Call (212) 755-5100

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