July 25, 2022

Swimmer’s Ear Can Lead To Temporary Hearing Loss

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Swimmer’s Ear Can Lead To Temporary Hearing Loss

It’s perfect beach and pool weather and you are hitting those areas as much as you can. Sometimes all that time in the water can lead to temporary hearing loss and something referred to as swimmer’s ear. To make sure you don’t have an underlying more serious hearing issue – get a hearing test at the Hearing Spa of Florida.

What Is Swimmer’s Ear?

The term swimmer’s ear refers to an infection in the skin of the ear canal. It is very painful and is caused by bacteria in the water. All water contains bacteria, even water in treated pools, but the water in non-treated areas like lakes, rivers and oceans has higher levels.

When the bacteria infested water doesn’t drain completely from the ear canal, this warm, moist environment causes the bacteria to multiply and create an infection. The infection causes swelling and inflammation and in such a tight space – severe discomfort.

Most Common In The Summer

Otitis Externa, or swimmer’s ear affects millions of people each year. The numbers go up in the summer with 44% of the cases reported between June and August. Although most often associated with children, who seem more susceptible because they have narrow ear canals, swimmer’s ear doesn’t discriminate and can affect all ages! Data from a 2014 study showed swimmer’s ear occurs at a rate of four per 1,000 people each year in the United States. Swimmers are five times more likely to get it than the general population.

You don’t have to be a swimmer to get it. Those living in hot, humid climates where moisture gets trapped in the ear can also get swimmer’s ear. And swimmer’s ear is another reason not to go digging around in your ear with a cotton swab or an object. Any trauma – like a scratch – to the ear canal provides an entry point for bacteria. So those who are not gentle with items pushed in their ear, or those who have eczema or psoriasis are at risk to develop swimmer’s ear.

Symptoms And Treatment

A clogged feeling in the ear that causes sound to be muffled or deadened is one of the first signs of swimmer’s ear. If untreated, next comes pain, swelling and even sometimes a discharge. There may be tinnitus, or what is commonly called ringing in the ears, in the affected ear. Symptoms of swimmer’s ear, including the hearing loss, are temporary and subside with treatment.

A word about the pain: it can be severe; it’s worse than what you may experience with an ear infection involving a cold. There are a series of nerves that link the base of the brain through the ear canal, the jaw and down to the diaphragm. You can have jaw pain and even a fever and swollen lymph nodes due to untreated swimmer’s ear.

Treatment is routine. A health care professional will prescribe antibiotic drops to treat the bacterial infection. They usually need to be applied for seven to 10 days. They will reduce the swelling and discomfort and eliminate the bacteria. While the infection is being treated, the doctor will likely ask you to stay out of the water. In addition to no swimming, while you are using the drops, you need to keep your ears dry. That means ear plugs, a cotton ball or Vaseline to repel water, to keep moisture out when you are showering, and bathing and a swim cap pulled over your ears if you must be in the water.

Avoiding Swimmer’s Ear

Dry your ears with a towel after swimming and tilt your head to each side to make sure you get the excess water. Use earplugs or a swim cap when swimming, especially in lakes and rivers. Don’t put anything, not even cotton swabs, in your ears. You can use a hair dryer on the lowest setting and blow it gently into your ear to dry up moisture.

Remember, Hearing Spa of Florida can help you out with hearing protection if you are a swimmer and use hearing aids or hearing protection to help prevent swimmer’s ear. If you are experiencing hearing issues and are unsure if its due to water and the beginning of swimmer’s ear – the best thing to do is call and get a hearing evaluation.

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Victoria L. Moore
Lead Audiologist
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Dr. Victoria Moore (Vicky) serves as President as well as Lead Audiologist at The Hearing Spa. She moved to the USA from England in 1991 and has been serving the communities of Sarasota and Bradenton for over 20 years. Her independent audiology practice focuses on adult hearing loss, tinnitus management, as well as Cochlear Implant services.


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