Swimmer’s Ear Treatment, Prevention and Symptoms

Hearing Health Blog
Acute external otitis or otitis externa – more commonly called swimmer’s ear – is an infection that affects the outer ear canal. The infection is termed swimmer’s ear because it commonly comes about as the result of moisture staying in the ears after swimmingwhich provides a wet environment that promotes microbial growth. Swimmer’s ear is also brought on by scraping or harming the delicate ear canal lining by using your fingertips, cotton swabs, or other foreign objects in an attempt to clean them. You should be familiar with the symptoms of swimmer’s ear, because even though it is simply treated, not treating it can result in serious complications.

Swimmer’s ear arises because the ear’s natural defenses (glands that secrete a waxy, water-repellent substance called cerumen) have become overloaded. Moisture in the ears, sensitivity reactions, and scratches to the ear canal lining can all encourage bacterial growth, and cause infection. Common activities that raise your likelihood of swimmer’s ear obviously include swimming – particularly in lakes or other untreated water reservoirs – the use of devices that sit inside the ear such as hearing aids or ear buds, and aggressive cleaning of the ear with cotton swabs or other foreign objects.

Mild signs of swimmer’s ear include itching within the ear, minor discomfort or pain made worse by tugging on the ear, redness, and a colorless fluid draining from the ear. Severe itching, heightened pain and discharge of pus indicate a moderate case of swimmer’s ear. Extreme cases of swimmer’s ear are accompanied by symptoms such as fever, severe pain which may radiate into other parts of the head, neck and face, swelling redness of the outer ear or lymph nodes, and possibly blockage of the ear canal. Complications can include temporary hearing loss, long-term infection of the outer ear, cartilage and bone loss, and deep-tissue infections that can spread to other areas of the body and lower the effectiveness of the immune system. Consequently, if you have any of these symptoms, even if minor, see your health care provider.

Doctors generally diagnose swimmer’s ear after a visual examination with a lighted instrument called an otoscope. The doctor will also check at the same time to see if there is any harm to the eardrum itself. If you definitely have swimmer’s ear, the standard treatment includes carefully cleaning the ears and using prescription eardrops to combat the bacteria. For extensive, severe infections a course of oral antibiotics may be prescribed.

To protect yourself from swimmer’s ear, dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or showering, avoid swimming in untreated water resources, and don’t insert foreign objects into your ears to clean them.

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