Hearing Loss

How To Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

Whether you’re a competitive swimmer or enjoy a regular dip at your local pool, you could be at risk of swimmer’s ear. Also known as otitis externa, swimmer’s ear is an infection or inflammation of the canal between the eardrum and the outer ear, typically caused when water remains trapped in your ear canal.

Swimmer’s ear can begin with mild symptoms such as itching, slight redness and mild discomfort in your ear, and drainage of clear, odourless fluid. However, if left untreated, swimmer’s ear can escalate; leading to partial blockage of your ear canal, decreased or muffled hearing, and severe pain that can extend to your face, neck and side of your head. Here are our top tips on how to prevent swimmer’s ear.

 

What causes swimmer’s ear?

Whether you’re a competitive swimmer or enjoy a regular dip at your local pool, you could be at risk of swimmer’s ear. Also known as otitis externa, swimmer’s ear is an infection or inflammation of the canal between the eardrum and the outer ear, typically caused when water remains trapped in your ear canal.

Swimmer’s ear can begin with mild symptoms such as itching, slight redness and mild discomfort in your ear, and drainage of clear, odourless fluid. However, if left untreated, swimmer’s ear can escalate; leading to partial blockage of your ear canal, decreased or muffled hearing, and severe pain that can extend to your face, neck and side of your head. Here are our top tips on how to prevent swimmer’s ear.

What causes swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear occurs when water remains in your ear canal, as this creates a moist environment that is ideal for bacterial growth. Water can remain in your ear not only from swimming and showering, but even from heavy perspiration or prolonged humid weather.

Another common cause of swimmer’s ear is excessive cleaning of your ear with a cotton bud or your finger, as this can cause small scratches or breaks in the skin that allow bacteria to grow. Even hair products, such as hairspray, shampoo and hair dye, or jewellery can cause allergies that encourage infection.

Lastly, if you have narrow ear canals, this can increase your chance of swimmer’s ear as it means water can’t drain as effectively from your ear.

How can I prevent swimmer’s ear?

Dry the ears after exposure to water

Make sure you thoroughly dry your ears after swimming or showering. Dry your outer ear gently and tip your head to the side to help water drain from your ear canal.

Protect your ears from products with chemicals

Consider using cotton wool to plug your ear when using products such as hairspray, hair dye and shampoo as these can cause irritation to the skin tissue in your ear canal.

Wear water protectors

Wearing earplugs while swimming is one of the easiest ways to to prevent swimmer’s ear. Make sure your ear plugs fit properly and are intended to seal the ear from water. You might even want to consider getting into the habit of wearing a shower cap while bathing. Also avoid swimming in areas that can be dirty or polluted, such as lakes or rivers.

Avoid cotton buds

You’re probably aware by now that using cotton buds or your finger to clean your ear is a big no-no. This is because cleaning your ears with cotton buds is actually counterproductive, as it pushes the earwax deeper into your ear canal, further blocking your ears.

Take care of your skin

The condition of your skin can contribute to the likelihood of you obtaining swimmer’s ear. If you have dry, flaky or cracked skin, or have eczema or allergies, you may be more likely to get swimmer’s ear. If this is the case, consider going to your doctor to have your ears professionally cleaned.

Get custom water protectors from The Art of Hearing

At The Art of Hearing, our custom-made water protectors are designed to protect your ears from infection during activities such as swimming and surfing. They are also easy to insert and remove and made of durable, long-lasting materials.

Whether you’re looking to have custom water protectors made or simply looking for ways to protect your ears from infection, the Perth audiologists at The Art of Hearing can offer you advice and solutions you need to protect and prolong your hearing. To find out more about our custom hearing solutions, visit The Art of Hearing website or call us on 08 9390 8811.