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Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa)

Swimmer's Ear is an infection that involves the ear canal. It is caused when water collects in the ear canal which can remove the protective ear wax that protects the ear canal. This allows bacteria and fungus to grow in the ear canal as it is a warm, dark environment that bacteria and fungus like. There are several ways to get Swimmer’s ear from swimming, or showering a lot, over cleaning the ear canal and removing the protective ear wax, placing an object in the ear and scratching the canal, as well as other less common causes.

When you have ear pain or itching, your ear canal feels swollen or plugged up, decreased hearing or you notice drainage from the ear it is time to see your healthcare provider. They will exam your ear to make sure there is no other cause for the pain or discomfort, or there are no other infections. Treatment usually includes ear drops, over the counter medication for pain and discomfort and refraining from getting water or other fluids in the ear for a brief period of time. Using a cotton ball to keep the ear dry during bathing or washing the hair is helpful. Also try not to itch the ear with anything as this can make the recovery longer.

Prevent swimmer’s ear by making sure you dry your ears thoroughly after getting water in them. This can be done by tilting the head to one side and pulling the ear lobe in different directions allowing the water to drain out. Towel trying the outer ear well preventing water from draining back into the ear. If you swim frequently use a swim cap or special ear plugs to keep water out of the ear.

NEVER place anything in your ear (cotton swabs, paper clips, bobby pins, or liquids or sprays) not prescribed by your healthcare provider.

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