What is Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s Ear is the irritation, inflammation or infection of the outer canal of your ear, a passage connecting your outer ear to the eardrum. Also called Otitis Externa, swimmer’s ear is usually caused by water trapped inside the ear canal, leading to development of bacterial or fungal infection. This condition may develop in people of all ages, however, children and teenagers at a greater risk. Swimmer’s ear can easily be cured with prompt treatment. If left untreated it may lead to serious complications.
If you develop any symptoms of swimmer’s ear, do not hesitate to set up an appointment with our skilled and experienced ENT specialists. Give us a call at 440-352-1474 and start your journey to quick recovery!
What Causes Swimmer’s Ear?
As the name indicates, swimmer’s ear is most commonly caused by infection because of moisture in the ear canal, after taking a shower, a bath, or a swim. Moist environment inside the ear canal helps bacteria and fungus multiply leading to full-fledged infection.
Swimming is not the only causal factor of swimmer’s ear. Other common causes include:
- Excessive use of cotton swabs or other tools to clean your ears
- Contact with excessively polluted and infected water in the communal bath tubs and swimming pools
- Contact with harmful chemicals usually present in hair sprays and hair dyes
- Water irrigation to remove wax
- Sand or other small irritants entering the ear canal
- Hearing aids and headphones
What are the Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear is a painful condition that starts off with mild symptoms, but with time can progress into complicated infection.
Initially following symptoms act as signs of swimmer’s ear:
- Itching in your ear canal
- Redness in the ear
- Discharge of fluid and puss
- Feeling of fullness inside the ear due to blockage and swelling
- Muffed hearing
If treatment is delayed, more intense affects of swimmer’s ear may be experienced. Such as:
- Intense pain in one or both ears that may spread to the face, neck and side of the head
- The skin around the ear reddens or swells
- The lymph nodes in your neck or near your ear swell up
- Severely impaired hearing
If left completely untreated, swimmer’s ear may lead to serious complications like:
- Temporary hearing loss
- Chronic Otitis Externa or recurring ear infections
- Spread of infection to the base of skull, brain or cranial nerves leading to Malignant Otitis Externa (bone and cartilage damage)
What are the Risk Factors for Swimmer’s Ear?
You are at a higher risk for developing swimmer’s ear if you:
- Regularly swim in bacteria and fungus-rich water
- Wear headphones, earplugs or hearing aids
- Have a narrow or hairy ear canal
- Live in warm and humid climate
- Have no or little earwax
- Have recurring ear infections
- Have eczema or seborrheic dermatitis
When Should I see a Doctor?
You should set up an appointment as soon as you start experiencing the symptoms. Immediate medical care must be sought if you have:
- Severe Pain
- Total Hearing Loss
How is Swimmer’s Ear Diagnosed?
In addition to asking questions about your symptoms, your ENT specialist may take following measures to accurately diagnose your condition:
- A brightly lit tool called otoscope can help your doctor to look for infection, swelling and redness inside the ear.
- A sample of abnormal fluid or discharge might be taken to test for bacterial growth
How is Swimmer’s Ear Treated?
Following treatment options are available for swimmer’s ear:
- Carefully cleaning the ear canal using a suction device or curette
- Over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen and ibuprofen etc
- Antifungal or antibacterial ear drops may be prescribed to eradicate the infection. For mild infections acidic ear drops containing diluted boric and acetic acid may be used.
- Topical antibiotics to clear out the infection from the ear canal
- You may have to take oral antibiotics if the infection spreads beyond the skin around the ear canal
Swimmer’s ear can be a painful nuisance and a potential threat to your hearing. Keep your ears dry to prevent it. If you develop any symptoms of swimmer’s ear, do not hesitate to set up an appointment with our skilled and experienced ENT specialists. Give us a call at 440-352-1474 and start your journey to quick recovery!
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