Swimmer’s Ear, or Otitis Externa, is an infection in the outer ear. It is brought on by water or debris that has been trapped within the ear canal, the channel between the outer ear and the eardrum. The moisture causes bacteria to grow, causing inflammation, swelling, and eventually a lot of pain if not treated properly. Swimming is often a cause of Swimmer’s Ear, hence the name, but it can also be obtained from any amount of water, such as a bath or shower, or other moisture or debris stuck in the ear canal. Too much or not enough ear wax, excessive ear hair, and eczema in or around the ear may increase the risk of Swimmer’s Ear.

Here are some signs that you or your child may have Swimmer’s Ear:

  • Pain or sensitivity of the outer ear or ear canal
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • Muffled hearing
  • Discharge coming from the ear
  • Swelling of the inner or outer ear, or in more severe cases, the lymph nodes around the neck

If you or your child has any of the above symptoms, talk with your doctor to get proper treatment. The most common treatment is prescription ear drops.

Here are some other ways to help treat Swimmer’s Ear: (Note: Always consult your doctor before trying any treatment options)

  • Take an over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen to treat the pain and swelling.
  • Avoid the risk of getting water or any other debris in or near your ear that may affect the infection until it is completely recovered.
  • Avoid putting anything in your ear, including cotton swabs, hearing aids, earplugs, or earphones, unless otherwise prescribed by your doctor.

Without treatment, Swimmer’s Ear can develop into much more than just an infection. In addition to the severe pain, the bacteria can grow and swell the canal, leading to muffled hearing or complete hearing loss. Once the infection has been cleared, hearing will return.

If you may be showing signs of Swimmer’s Ear, please consult your physician.