It’s fun to play in the water, especially throughout the summer months. However, this fun can sometimes leave you with water that’s trapped in your ears. You’ll know when this happens because your ear canal will feel full and as if there’s water jostling around inside of it. Sometimes all you have to do to relieve this feeling is to tilt your head to the side. Unfortunately, when this doesn’t work you may develop otitis externa (an ear infection a.k.a. swimmer’s ear).
Why Swimmer’s ear Occurs
There are many reasons why water may get trapped in your ear. You may naturally have a narrow ear canal or something inside your ear canal (e.g. wax) is making it narrow. When you spend a lot of time in the water your risk of developing swimmer’s ear grows bigger. However, even people who are involved in gymnastics can develop swimmer’s ear simply from doing flips and handstands. Typically, you shouldn’t worry about this until the water doesn’t trickle out on its own. When this happens bacteria may start growing in your ear. You’re more likely to have this issue if you live in a wet or humid environment, have allergies or skin conditions, or there are scratches inside your ear canal.
Symptoms and Treatment of Swimmer’s Ear
Wearing ear plugs can help you prevent swimmer’s ear. However, if you do get it your symptoms will be mild and may include:
- An itchy, red ear canal
- Mild discomfort
- Clear, odorless fluid
Never insert anything (e.g. cotton swab, finger) into your ear canal or you could puncture it. You may also remove the protective, waxy layer that’s there. In doing so you’re creating a great place for bacteria to grow. Instead, you should:
- Tilt your head toward the side of your affected ear and gently tug on your earlobe or lie on a towel for a few minutes. You may want to try moving your jaw before doing this.
- Open your Eustachian tubes by taking a deep breath, pinching your nose closed with your fingers then closing your mouth and gently exhaling.
- Securely cup the palm of your hand over your ear then tilt your head toward the ground and gently push and release it against your ear.
- Try applying heat from a warm compress or blowing the warm air from a hair dryer on low setting into your ear canal.
- Most drug stores sell hydrogen peroxide ear drops that you can use. They’re made from equal parts of vinegar and alcohol and should never be used if you have a perforated ear drum, ear infection, or tubes.
Enjoying swimming in the summer, as well as the many other great sounds of the season throughout the year requires you to prioritize your ears’ health. For this you should schedule an annual hearing evaluation with Countryside Hearing Aid Services. If we discover that you’re suffering from any type of hearing loss we can treat you now so you can continue enjoying the sounds around you so make sure to schedule your appointment today.
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