Summer is here and that means cookouts, pool parties, and from time to time, ear infections. A common ear infection is Swimmer’s Ear, also referred to as acute external otitis.
Have you ever dived into a pool, surfaced, and realized your ears were blocked? How did you know? Your ears felt full or heavy and you couldn’t distinguish sounds or conversations as well as before. Sometimes, a couple of knocks against your temple and the water drains. Sometimes, the water drains on its own. However, there are times when the water doesn’t drain and that’s when trouble can occur.
What Is Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the skin covering that leads from the outer ear to the ear drum. It typically occurs because of water buildup in the ear canal where bacteria reside. When bacteria are trapped with the water, the water serves as a festering ground for those bacteria to multiply which can cause all sorts of problems:
- Itching, irritation, inflammation and redness
- Inner ear pain
- Feeling that your ears are blocked
- Drainage from the ear
- Temporary hearing loss
Swimmer’s Ear Can Cause Hearing Loss
If Swimmer’s Ear goes untreated, it can manifest as a recurrent ear infection; it can also get into your bone and cartilage structure around the ear; it can also cause temporary hearing loss. Temporary hearing loss can be caused because the infection, inflamed skin (the blocked sensation) prevent sound from passing through to the middle ear then onto the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is also referred to as conductive hearing loss, properly defined as sound waves not properly passing rom the outer ear to the middle ear. As you can imagine with a blocked ear canal, when this occurs, sounds seem muted or muffled. If treated quickly, the hearing loss will go away.
What To Do If You Have Swimmer’s Ear
You’ll only know if you have Swimmer’s Ear if your ENT doctor or audiologist diagnoses it. An ear infection may not be an ear infection but rather a mask or referred pain from another source such as your sinuses, throat, or teeth.
Doctors will treat Swimmer’s Ear typically with antibiotics after thoroughly cleaning the ear(s).
How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear
- Dry your ears after bathing or swimming. Use a towel. Dry ears is the key
- Use ear plugs when you or your child swims
- Get your and your child’s ears cleaned from time to time by your ENT doctor. Don’t do it yourself because you could eliminate the necessary earwax covering needed to repel irritation
Ear Infection and Hearing Loss