Now that summer is in full swing, more and more people are turning to water activities to have fun and stay cool. But that backyard pool, local stream or nearby lake could pose a danger to your hearing. Without proper protection, you can develop swimmer’s ear – an infection in the ear canal caused by water activities.
What Is Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear is the result of water becoming trapped inside the ear canal, which creates a moist environment conducive to bacterial growth. The condition can be mild, moderate or severe. The worse the condition, the greater your risk of permanent damage or widespread infection.
Mild symptoms include itchiness, redness, discomfort and clear drainage. Moderate symptoms involve intense itch and redness, pain, excessive drainage, feeling of fullness and muffled hearing. Advanced cases of swimmer’s ear are rare, and may cause severe pain, complete blockage of the ear canal, redness of the outer ear, swelling of lymph nodes in the neck and fever.
It’s important to note that most cases of swimmer’s ear are mild, especially when treated promptly. See a doctor immediately if you develop severe pain or fever.
How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to prevent swimmer’s ear while still enjoying your favorite water activities.
- Never stick foreign objects into the ear, even if you suspect buildup or feel like water is trapped. This can push debris further into the ear canal or even rupture the eardrum.
- Avoid swimming in water with high bacteria levels, as this raises chances of infection. Some bodies of water will be marked with signs that say “no swimming” or “high bacteria level,” but sometimes this is not the case. If a body of water looks dirty or murky, it’s better to be safe and avoid it.
- Dry your ears immediately after swimming. Again, don’t insert anything into the ears. Instead, tilt your head after swimming to drain water from the ear canal and wipe the outer ear with a towel or soft cloth. If you feel you still have water in the ear canal, you can use a hairdryer on the lowest settings to dry it out.
- Invest in swim plugs. These can be purchased over-the-counter at a drug store or custom-molded in an audiologist’s office for maximum comfort and protection.
For more information about preventing swimmer’s ear or to schedule an appointment with an audiologist, call Arizona Hearing Specialists today.