Swimmer's Ear: What You Should Know

Swimmer's Ear: What You Should Know

 | Monday, January 7, 2019

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal usually caused by different types of bacteria commonly found in water. The water gets trapped in the ear, and the moisture softens the ear’s protective wax and allows the bacteria to grow, eventually infecting the ear canal.

Despite its name, you don’t have to be a swimmer or even go in the water to get swimmer’s ear. In fact, you can develop it when your ear is exposed to other types of moisture, including sweat or even being out in the rain or humid weather for long periods of time. You can also develop it by damaging the skin that lines the ear by putting foreign objects into your ear, like cotton swabs, your finger, or even ear buds.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms are usually mild at first but may get worse if your infection isn’t treated promptly. The infection can spread beyond the ear canal and lead to a chronic infection. On rare occasions, the infection can reach the soft tissue and bone, which can require emergency treatment.

Remember, swimmer’s ear is most often caused by bacterial infection and may require treatment with a prescription medicine from a doctor. Contact your doctor if you’re experiencing any signs or symptoms of swimmer’s ear, even if they’re mild.

Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Discomfort made worse by pulling on your outer ear
  • Drainage of clear, odorless fluid
  • Feeling of fullness inside your ear
  • Partial blockage of your ear canal by swelling
  • Decreased or muffled hearing or temporary hearing loss



How can you lower your risk for getting swimmer’s ear?

Keep in mind that swimmer’s ear is associated with excess moisture in your ear. So first and foremost, try to keep from overexposing your ears to water.

  • Dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering—use a towel, tilt your head to hold each ear facing the ground to allow water to escape, or pull your earlobe in

    different directions while each ear is facing the ground

  • Use a bathing cap or ear plugs when swimming
  • Don’t swim in water with elevated bacteria levels, such as a lake. Try to stick to well-maintained pools with proper pH levels and those that are properly disinfected
  • Keep foreign objects out of your ear to avoid breaking the skin
  • Don’t remove ear wax. If you think your ear canal is blocked by ear wax, talk to your doctor


It’s worth repeating that swimmer’s ear is an infection that may require a doctor’s attention. If you think you may have swimmer’s ear, or are experiencing any symptoms, talk to your doctor. And if you are diagnosed with it, know that you’re not alone and there are treatments for it.



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