Swimmer’s ear is a painful condition of the outer ear that can result in inflammation, irritation, or infection. These symptoms often occur when water (from swimming, bathing and moist environments) becomes trapped in your ear, allowing the spread of bacteria or fungal organisms.
It can also be caused by excessive cleaning of the ear canal, contact with hair dye or sprays, cuts in the skin of the ear canal or by skin diseases like seborrhea or eczema.
The most common sign of swimmer’s ear is itching, pain or the feeling that the ear is plugged. Sometimes the lymph nodes around the ear or the upper neck will become swollen. If untreated, hearing loss can result, although when the condition is treated and cleared up, normal hearing will return. Typical treatment includes cleaning of the ear canal and the use of ear drops that inhibit bacterial or fungal growth.
To prevent this condition, follow these tips:
• Dry your ears with a clean, dry towel or use a hair dryer.
• Have your ears cleaned periodically if you have itchy ears or excessive ear wax. Never use a cotton swab to remove ear wax as you may inadvertently push wax and dirt deeper into the ear canal, causing an ideal environment for infection.
• Keep ears free of moisture during swimming or bathing. Use ear plugs to reduce the possibility of getting swimmer’s ear.