It can affect adults of all ages and is particularly common in children.
During the warmer summer months we see an increase in cases because of the increased exposure to water.
The ear canal is the channel that is about one inch long, and it leads from the outer ear to the eardrum.
Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear
- Redness and swelling of the ear canal
- An itchy feeling inside the ear
- Pain when chewing while eating
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- Temporary hearing loss
Please be aware that swimmer’s ear is not the same as a middle ear infection which is also common in children. Swimmer’s ear is an infection that happens when water or moisture becomes trapped in the ear canal. This moist and warm environment is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria to form and grow. It can also become fungal.
Although we commonly call this infection swimmer’s ear, it may have nothing to do with swimming.
It can also occur from showering, bathing or even sweating! Earwax helps to protect the ears and is a natural barrier to moisture and helps to limit the growth of bacteria. Some patients are far too vigorous with the cleaning of their ears with the use of cotton buds and other small objects, even fingers. This can leave their ears vulnerable to this type of ear infection.
If swimmer’s ear is left untreated it can become terribly painful and can temporarily affect hearing. If left untreated, it can also lead to complications of the infection spreading beyond the ear canal and chronic infection that becomes harder to treat. It can also then lead to permanent damage to the ear.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Swimmer’s ear is diagnosed by both a physical examination and a medical history.
We will also examine the ears under an operating microscope which allows the clearest view inside the ear canal.
Swimmer’s ear is treated with prescription eardrops, which can include antibiotics and steroids.
Swimmer’s ear can be very painful, so you may also need pain medication taken orally. During treatment of swimmer’s ear it is vital to keep the ear completely dry.
The recovery time and severity of symptoms varies from person to person. Symptoms will usually improve within 2-3 days from the start of treatment, and the pain should ease within 4 -7 days.
It can take up to 2 weeks for the ear to feel completely normal.