Posted by on August 19, 2022
Summer is upon us and now, more than ever, we’re looking forward to enjoying outdoor activities — particularly water sports! Unfortunately, with water sports, we also see an increase in swimmer’s ear.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection found in the outer ear canal, the area that extends from the outer ear (pinna) to the eardrum (tympanic membrane). The medical term for swimmer’s ear is otitis externa. Swimmer’s ear occurs when moisture gets trapped in the outer ear space, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth, which can invade the skin of the ear canal.
Not surprisingly, a swimmer’s ear is most often caused by moisture or debris retained in the ear canal from swimming. But showering, bathing or other moist environments can also be the source of retained moisture. Swimmer’s ear should be taken seriously and should be treated to prevent any negative effects it may have on your hearing and to prevent further infection.
Other factors can contribute to swimmer’s ear, including:
Mild cases of swimmer’s ear will likely begin with itching and irritation in the ear canal and pain that worsens when you tug on the outer ear (pinna). The ear may feel swollen or blocked. A clear, odorless discharge may be present as well.
Advanced cases of swimmer’s ear may involve:
Swimmer’s ear is not typically considered to be a dangerous condition and can clear up quickly following treatment. However, if untreated, the swimmer’s ear can become extremely painful and potentially dangerous, especially for those who are diabetic or have problems with their immune system, including the elderly.
Left untreated, swimmer’s ear can lead to:
Swimmer’s ear is best treated by a physician.
The physician will perform an otoscopic examination to confirm there is no eardrum perforation, which would allow moisture to invade the middle ear space. The physician may be able to easily clean the infected area to relieve irritation and pain. Antibiotic ear drops are necessary to clear the infection and will be prescribed by the physician.
For a more advanced infection, oral antibiotics or pain medication may be prescribed as well. If the infection does not improve within 3-4 days, the physician may consider different medications.
It is important to keep the infected ear(s) dry during the healing process.
It’s wise to take preventative measures to protect your ears and stay in the swim of things this summer. Some recommendations to avoid swimmer’s ear include:
It’s important to be aware of swimmer's ear and be on the lookout for symptoms. Schedule an appointment today for a hearing consultation.