Swimming and Ear Issues

little kids swimming  in pool  underwater.

If you suffer from repeated ear infections and it seems your hearing isn’t as strong as it used to be, contact us at 864-881-1663 to schedule a hearing exam.

The warm summer months always includes a lot of time in the pool, especially for kids. The constant presence of water in the ear canal can lead to something painful...swimmer's ear! It can also lead to temporary hearing loss, which is something you might not be aware of but it happens more often than most people realize.

What is swimmer's ear and what causes it?

Swimmer's ear is an infection of the skin in the ear canal. It is often very painful and most common during the summer months. The infection starts when bacteria from water (all water contains bacteria) enters into the ear. When the water with the bacteria doesn't drain from the ear then it gets trapped. The ear canal is a warm, moist environment and a perfect breeding ground for bacteria to multiply. When the bacteria multiplies it causes an infection, which causes swelling and inflammation of the skin in the ear canal. When the skin of the ear canal swells it is extremely painful because there is very little space in the ear canal.

While children are more susceptible to swimmer's ear because of their very narrow ear canals, it can affect people of every age. The name swimmer's ear is most common with people that spend time in the water; however, it can happen even when you don't spend time in the water. People who live in hot and humid climates can develop swimmer's ear--also known as otitis externa--when moisture builds up in the ear canal.

What are the symptoms of swimmer's ear?

The feeling that your ear is clogged or full is a telltale sign of swimmer's ear. Noises usually sound muffled, and when left untreated becomes painful, more swollen, and sometimes discharge is released out of the ear.

Can untreated swimmer's ear develop into hearing loss or tinnitus?

Even if you develop hearing loss, it is often only temporary and improves with treatment. If you get ringing in the ear, also know as tinnitus, this is also temporary and will get better with treatment.

How is swimmer's ear treated?

Most doctors prescribe antibiotic drops for 7-10 days. After a couple of days of the antibiotic drops, the pain associated with swimmer's ear gets better. Doctors also typically recommend you keep your ears completely dry during treatment, which means no swimming and using cotton balls during bathing to prevent water from entering the ear canal.

Is there any way to prevent swimmer's ear?

We have gathered a few tips on how you can prevent swimmer's ear so you can enjoy the pool this summer.

  • After swimming, dry your ears with a towel

  • Drain the water from your ears by tilting your head slowly from side to side until you feel the water is gone

  • If you are prone to ear infections, use earplugs or wear a swimmer's cap, especially in lakes and rivers

  • Don't use cotton swabs to clean your ears, that could push the water and bacteria further into the ear canal

  • To remove moisture in the ear, use a hair dryer on a low, cool setting to dry your ears out

To schedule a hearing exam, contact Sound Hearing Care at 864-881-1663. We have four convenient locations including Simpsonville, Greer, Travelers Rest, and Greenville.