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What is Swimmer’s Ear and How Can You Treat It?

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is an inflammation and infection of the outer ear canal caused by bacteria or fungi. As the name suggests, swimmer’s ear is commonly caused by water remaining in the ear after swimming, which can create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. This painful ear condition is common in people of all ages, but it is most often seen in children. Fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to avoid swimmer’s ear as well as ways to treat the condition if it does occur. 

What Causes Swimmer’s Ear?

One of the most common causes of otitis externa is swimming in unclean water. However, that isn’t the only culprit. There are several other factors that may contribute to this condition that does not involve being in the water. These include:

  • Being in warm and humid environments
  • A scratch or injury to the ear canal
  • Excessive cleaning of the ear
  • Having an object in the ear
  • Extra earwax build-up

Who is at Risk for Swimmer’s Ear?

Anyone can suffer from swimmer’s ear, but certain individuals are more at risk than others. Swimmer’s ear is more likely to occur in people with pre-existing skin conditions such as eczema. Children are also more susceptible to swimmer’s ear due to their smaller eustachian tubes. Using headphones, swimming caps, and hearing aids may also put you at an increased risk of developing otitis externa.


The symptoms of otitis externa may vary from person to person. Furthermore, it may be easy to confuse swimmer’s ear for another condition. Therefore, if you notice any of the following symptoms, it is crucial to see a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis. Common symptoms of otitis externa include:

  • Muffled hearing
  • A swollen ear canal
  • Fever
  • Itchy ears
  • Yellow or green discharge from the ear
  • Sharp pain when tugging on the outer ear
  • Redness of the outer ear
  • Swollen neck glands

Ways to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

The best way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to take the proper precautions when in and around water. If you are planning to go swimming, make sure you wear earplugs. This will help prevent water from entering the ear canal. When you are done swimming, gently towel dry your outer ears. If your ears are waterlogged, try tilting your head sideways to drain the water out.

To ensure your ears are dry, consider using a blow dryer on the lowest setting and holding it at least 12 inches away from your ear. Slowly wave the dryer around your ear, and be sure to keep it in motion. Avoid using cotton swabs to dry your ears, as they may harm your ear canal and cause further damage.

Treatment Options

If you are diagnosed with otitis externa, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider. The Ear and Sinus Institute can provide comprehensive care to help alleviate symptoms and manage your ear infection. With proper treatment, otitis externa is often easy to treat and typically clears up within a 7 to 10-day period.

Treatment often involves using antibiotic ear drops to kill any bacteria build-up due to excessive moisture. Corticosteroid ear drops may also be recommended to reduce inflammation and swelling. Furthermore, over-the-counter pain medications can be taken to help minimize discomfort. Swimming and other activities that involve water should be avoided while you are treating swimmer’s ear.

Treat Your Ear Pain at the Ear and Sinus Institute

If you are experiencing any symptoms associated with swimmer’s ear, it is important to seek medical treatment right away. The Ear and Sinus Institute can diagnose, treat and manage your symptoms to ensure a speedy recovery. Contact the Ear and Sinus Institute today for more information about treating otitis externa.

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