Swimmer’s Ear : Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention

Hany Ghonaim

Written by Francis L’Africain,


ODYO Blog _ Swimmer Ear

Swimmer’s ear – also known as otitis externa – is an infection of the skin of the external ear canal. It is frequently caused by water and humidity that accumulates in the ear after an extended period in the water. The accumulation of humidity creates a favorable environment for the development of bacteria. Even though it is frequently caused by excess humidity, it can also be caused by the insertion of foreign objects in the ear canal (to scratch an itch, to try to remove earwax, etc.). The foreign objects create lesions in the skin, which leads to an infection.

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is not to be confused with otitis media, a condition in which fluid builds up behind the eardrum, causing hearing loss.

The Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear

  • Itching in the ear canal 
  • Redness in the ear canal 
  • Pain in the ear 
  • Liquid or pus draining  
  • Feeling of blocked or full ears 
  • Feeling of hearing less well  

Preventing Swimmer’s Ear

To reduce the risk of contracting swimmer’s ear: 

  • Avoid swimming in stagnant or dirty water that can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Wear a watertight bathing cap when swimming.
  • Wear protective earplugs when swimming.
  • Dry out the visible part of the ear as much as possible using a towel or hairdryer.
  • Avoid inserting any foreign object inside your ears to scratch an itch or to try removing earwax. Cotton swabs are not recommended for ear cleaning, see here why.

Treatments for Swimmer’s Ear

If you think you have or your child has swimmer’s ear, consult your doctor who can make the diagnosis and apply the appropriate treatments. If it is a swimmer’s ear, your doctor will prescribe antibiotic eardrops to combat the infection.

Above all, do not go back in the water as long as the infection isn’t completely gone, and do not insert anything in your ears other than the drops prescribed by your doctor.

Any questions? Feel free to contact one of the experts on the ODYO team!

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