Swimmers aren’t the only ones who suffer from the painfully achy condition of swimmer’s ear. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) explains, “There are other ways to get swimmer’s ear, such as through a scratch on the tender skin of the ear from cleaning too vigorously with cotton swabs or fingernails. People can also get swimmer’s ear from earplugs, headphones, or hearing aid ear molds – anything that keeps the ear canals closed and unventilated for extended periods of time.”
Experts explain that excessive moisture in the ear canal irritates and breaks down the skin, allowing bacteria or fungi to penetrate and grow.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that more than 2.4 million people annually seek medical treatment to relieve the pain and swelling of this bacterial infection affecting the outer ear canal.
ASHA lists the warning signs of swimmer’s ear: achiness inside the ear, redness, ear drainage, and pain when touching the ear. When caught early, swimmer’s ear can be treated easily with eardrops. However, once the infection progresses to the middle ear behind the eardrum, antibiotics are needed.
How to prevent swimmer’s ear? ASHA recommends keeping the ear canals dry, and carefully drying the ears after bathing or swimming. “Tilt the head parallel to the ground and gently pull on the earlobe to straighten the ear canal and let the water drain.
“Children who are prone to swimmer’s ear or who swim regularly might benefit from custom swim plugs. An audiologist can make and precisely fit a set of plugs to your child’s ears to block water.”