What is Swimmer’s Ear & How Can You Prevent It?

With summer here, the temptation to jump into the nearest pool or river is strong. But before you do, it’s worth taking a moment to understand the risks of swimmer’s ear (otitis externa). It’s a very painful condition that millions suffer with. Most cases are diagnosed during June and August and although children are more easily affected, anyone can be susceptible.

But with some understanding of what the condition is and how to prevent it, there’s no reason why you can’t join in the fun at the pool this summer.  

Symptoms Of Swimmer’s Ear

The common symptoms of swimmer’s ear are a full and clogged feeling inside the ear which leads to sounds becoming muffled. Left untreated, this will lead to swelling and intense pain. On occasion, there may also be a discharge present. Often tinnitus symptoms can worsen and a temporary hearing loss may occur (after treatment hearing should return to normal).

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmers ear is caused by moisture becoming trapped within the ear canal. The bacteria present within the water is trapped in a moist and warm environment that is perfect for reproducing, thus causing an infection of the skin in the ear canal.

This becomes very painful if left untreated because the skin becomes inflamed and swollen, increasing pressure within the narrow space.

Interestingly, swimmers are 5 times more likely to develop this infection, but it can also be caused by humidity.

You are at greater risk of developing swimmer’s ear if you have eczema, psoriasis or you use Q-tips. This is due to scratches and damage of the skin allowing easy entry for bacteria. Children are at a higher risk simply because their ear canal is so much narrower than an adult.

The other factor that will increase risk is swimming or jumping into untreated water such as the ocean, lakes or rivers because the bacteria levels will be higher.

However there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family, without missing out on the fun.

How To Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

These 5 tips will help protect you from swimmer’s ear:

  1. Wear a swimming cap and earplugs.
  2. Be sure to drain any trapped water from your ears by tilting your head for a few seconds on each side after each time you swim, dive or splash.
  3. When drying off, dab a clean soft dry towel just inside your ear to remove any water.
  4. Do not use Q-tips, scratch or insert anything into your ears.
  5. For extra reassurance that you have removed all moisture, gently use a hairdryer on the lowest setting.

If you recognize any of the above symptoms, do speak to a physician for treatment asap. If you have any concerns about your hearing following an infection or you would like a check up before you go on vacation, please get in touch with the Family Audiology team. Call 607-323-4061 or  book a consultation with us today.

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