It’s warm and you are bound and determined to hit the beach or maybe spend some quality time in the pool, but if you’ve had what many call swimmer’s ear, that may be stopping you. Your friends at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center want you to have a happy, healthy and swimmingly good summer, so we’re going to give you some info about swimmer’s ear and how to prevent it and treat it.
What is Swimmers Ear?
The specific medical name of swimmer’s ear is otitis externa and it’s an infection of the ear canal. The ear canal is the tube that runs from the hole outside your ear to your eardrum.
Swimmer’s ear is not the same as those infections you got as a small child that you called earaches. Those were middle ear infections and they were deeper in the ear, behind the eardrum.
Swimmer’s ear is usually caused by bacteria that gets in your ear through water, but it can also be caused by a virus or even fungus. Symptoms are extreme itchiness, pain which can become severe, trouble hearing (sounds seem muffled and they are because your ear canal is swollen) and fluid or pus draining from the ear.
If it hurts when you tug or press your ear, you likely have swimmer’s ear. Always check with your doctor if you have any signs of ear infection. If you are dizzy or have poor balance and ringing in your ears, consult a physician.
Why Do You Get Swimmer’s Ear
Most of the time, your immune system and your ears ward off the germs that cause swimmer’s ear. Give a round of applause to earwax because it helps protect the ear from damage and it’s not a good medium for germs to grow in. But if the skin inside your ear gets scratched, it makes it easier for germs to get in and then cause an infection. As you might imagine, sticking things in your ear can scratch the skin and – you’ve got a growth area for swimmer’s ear.
So, and we can’t make this any clearer – don’t stick things in your ear. Don’t use lotto swabs, your fingers, hairpins, pen caps, the end of your glasses or anything else that can scratch your skin or rub away your friendly earwax. It goes without saying you need to be careful with items you usually put in your ear like earbuds, earplugs and even hearing aids. Be gentle.
If you come back from the pool, water park or beach with swimmer’s ear, don’t just think you can deal with it on your own. See a doctor to get treatment that will fight off the infection.
First the doctor will need to gently clean out anything that might be stuck in the ear canal such as fluid, dead skin and extra earwax. There are special tools that a doctor can use so the cleaning won’t hurt your ear canal.
During the cleaning the doctor may check to make sure your eardrum has not been damaged or
perforated. You will likely get a prescription for ear drops. These help fight off the infection and help your ear to heal. The antibiotics in the ear drops kill bacteria and there may also be steroids in the drops which reduce ear canal swelling. If there is a fungus present, the ear drops will have an anti-fungal component. Finally, they probably have some ingredients that will help restore the healthy balance to your ear canal area so germs won’t continue to grow there.
You may need a family member or friend to help get the drops in your ear and if they seem startlingly cold, you can warm the bottle in your hands before you use the drops to make them more “ear friendly.”
Water trapped in your ear canal after a swim, spa or bath leads to swimmer’s ear. To protect yourself, use ear plugs or a bathing cap pulled over your ears. Don’t swim in lakes, rivers or ponds with lots of bacteria. Many times, public beaches have posted bacteria levels. If they are too high, stay out of the water.
Shake or drain water from your ears when you are done. Tilt your head and let gravity do the work – pulling your earlobes at different angles will also help. Dry the outside of your ears and you can use a hair dryer on your ears. Put the setting on low and hold about 12 inches away.
Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center
At Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center, we prioritize hearing health. We offer custom ear protection, such a swimmer’s plugs, to help keep your ears healthy during your swims. We also provide comprehensive hearing health services, from hearing tests to hearing aid fittings. Contact us today to learn more.