Ohio ENT & Allergy

Our Locations

4275 Steels Pointe Rd.
Stow, OH 44224

4016 Massillon Road, Suite C
Uniontown, OH 44685

Swimmer's Ear

WARNING: If you already have an ear infection, or if you have ever had ear surgery or a perforated or otherwise injured eardrum, you should consult an ear, nose, and throat specialist before going swimming and before using any type of ear drops. If you do not know whether you have or have ever had a perforated, punctured, ruptured, or otherwise injured eardrum, ask your ear doctor.

Causes Of Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear structure. It typically occurs in swimmers, but the since the cause of the infection is water trapped in the ear canal, bathing or showering may also cause this common infection. When water is trapped in the ear canal, bacteria that normally inhabit the skin and ear canal multiply, causing infection and irritation of the ear canal. If the infection progresses it may involve the outer ear. 

Symptoms Of Swimmer’s Ear

Ohio ENT & Allergy finds it important for patients to know the most common symptoms of swimmer’s ear. The most common of which, are mild to moderate pain that is aggravated by tugging on the auricle and an itchy ear. However, other symptoms may include any of the following:   

Treatment Of Swimmer’s Ear

Treatment for the early stages of swimmer’s ear includes careful cleaning of the ear canal and eardrops that inhibit bacterial growth. Mild acid solutions such as boric or acetic acid are effective for early infections.
For more severe infections, antibiotics may help ear cleaning, only if the patient does not suffer from a perforated eardrum. If the ear canal is swollen shut, a sponge or wick may be placed in the ear canal so that the antibiotic drops will be effective. Pain medication may also be prescribed. An otolaryngologist has specialized equipment and expertise to effectively clean the ear canal and treat swimmer’s ear. Ohio ENT & Allergy reminds patients that follow-up appointments with your physician are very important to monitor progress of the infection, repeat ear cleaning, and to replace the ear wick as needed.

Prevention Of Swimmer’s Ear

A dry ear is unlikely to become infected, so it is important to keep the ears free of moisture after swimming or bathing. Removable earplugs, sometimes worn for hearing protection, can be used to keep moisture out of the ear canal. Q-tips should not be used for this purpose, because they may pack material deeper into the ear canal, remove protective earwax, and irritate the thin skin of the ear canal creating the perfect environment for infection.
The safest way to dry your ears is with a hair dryer. If you do not have a perforated eardrum, rubbing alcohol or a 50:50 mixture of alcohol and vinegar used as eardrops will evaporate excess water and keep your ears dry.

WARNING: Before using any drops in the ear, it is important to verify that you do not have a perforated eardrum. Check with your otolaryngologist if you have ever had a perforated, punctured, or injured eardrum, or if you have had ear surgery. Also, people with itchy, flaky, scaly, or extensive earwax ear characteristics are more likely to develop swimmer’s ear. If you have any of these characteristics, it may be helpful to have your ears cleaned periodically by an otolaryngologist.

The information provided above is for general use only, and medical decisions should not be made without consulting a physician. The information is provided by The American Academy of Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery Foundation.