Swimmer’s Ear – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the ear canal. Men and women of all ages are affected equally, but children and teenagers most frequently develop this type of ear infection. It can be associated with a middle ear infection (otitis media) if the eardrum ruptures. Swimmer’s ear is also known as Otitis externa. Swimming in polluted water is one way to contract swimmer’s ear. The condition also can be caused by scratching (in) the ear or by an object stuck in it. Swimmer’s ear infection occurs external to the ear drum in the ear canal. A rare but serious infection called malignant external otitis can develop if bacteria invade the bones inside the ear canal and spread to the base of the skull. Signs and symptoms of swimmer’s ear usually appear within a few days of exposure to contaminated water. Ear pain is the most common symptom of Swimmer’s Ear. In more serious cases, pain is accompanied by discharge from the ear and even some hearing loss due to swelling of the ear canal.

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is fairly common. If you have had swimmer’s ear in the past, you have a higher risk of having it again. Moisture predisposes the ear to infection from water-loving bacteria such as Pseudomonas. Other bacteria, or rarely, fungus, can also cause infection. Most of the time, water can run in and out of the ear canal without causing a problem. A lot of swimming can wash away that wax protection and lead to these wet conditions in the ear canal. Bacteria grow and the ear canal gets red and swollen. When the ears are exposed to continual excessive moisture, many of the natural immune defences in the skin which line the ear canal are lost and, the ear becomes more susceptible to infection by bacteria.

Causes of Swimmer’s ear

The common causes and risk factor’s of Swimmer’s ear include the following:

Swimmer’s ear occurs when your ears have been in the water for long periods of time.

Bony overgrowths in the ear canal called exostoses.

Persistent moisture in your ear from swimming, bathing or living in a humid environment.

Use of stereo headphones inserted into the ear.

Bacteria growth fostered by hair sprays or hair dyes in your ear.

Frequent diving.

Skin problems, such as eczema, psoriasis, or seborrhea.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s ear

Some sign and symptoms related to Swimmer’s ear are as follows:

Decreased hearing.

Itching of your outer ear.

Swelling in your ear or lymph nodes in your neck.

Swollen ear canal.

Conductive hearing loss.

Redness of the outer ear.

Pus draining from your ear.

Fever is generally not present. If there is a fever, it is not usually high.

Treatment of Swimmer’s ear

Here is list of the methods for treating Swimmer’s ear:

Antibiotic ear drops or oral antibiotics.

Treatment for the early stages of swimmer’s ear includes careful cleaning of the ear canal and eardrops that inhibit bacterial growth.

Pain medication.

Mild acid solutions such as boric or acetic acid are effective for early infections.

Analgesics may be used if pain is severe. Putting something warm against the ears may reduce pain.

For more severe infections, if you do not have a perforated ear drum, ear cleaning may be helped by antibiotics.

Apply heat to the ear to control the pain at home.