Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is a condition that causes pain in the outer ear and ear canal. The ear canal protects the ear from foreign objects entering in the middle part of the ear, such as bugs, water, and small toys children shove in there. The ear canal is also responsible for protecting the ear form developing infections.

Symptoms and Signs

There are many symptoms and signs of swimmer’s ear. Consider seeing one of our ear specialists if you have any of the following:

  • Pain in one ear that gradually gets worse
  • Itchy ear canal
  • Ear drainage that may be clear, yellow, white or bloody with a foul smell
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Ringing in the affected ear
  • Dizziness
  • Low-grade fever

Causes and Concerns

Often times, the ear canal fails at doing its job. Children and teenagers are the highest population of people who get swimmer’s ear, although, adults can also develop this condition. Statistics show that at least 10 percent of the population will have at least one case of swimmer’s ear in their lifetime. Swimmer’s ear occurs when water (from swimming or showering) enters the ear and bypasses the ear canal, making its way into the middle section of the ear.

At Home Treatment for Swimmer’s Ear

  • Try an over the counter pain reliever such as Tylenol
  • Over the counter ear drops (for swimmer’s ear) may help

When to Call the Doctor

Swimmer’s ear is not considered a medical emergency, and you must call and make an appointment with an ear specialist if you have any concerning issues. However, seek medical attention if you have:

  • Pain not controlled with an over the counter medication
  • Swimmer’s ear along with a disease or condition that suppresses your immune system
  • Redness that goes from the ear down the neck you need immediate medical attention
  • Weakness in the facial muscles
  • A high fever
  • History of ear problems
  • History of ear surgeries

Solutions and Options

If you have swimmer’s ear, you need medication for pain and inflammation (swelling). Additionally, the ear specialist will clean out the ear, especially if there is a lot of fluid draining from it. If the doctor believes you have an infection, he or she may prescribe antibiotics. In a week or two, you may have to return to the doctor for a follow-up visit to make sure your swimmer’s ear has resolved.