Swimmer’s ear remains the common name for an infection that occurs in the outer ear’s canal called otitis externa . This canal runs from the outside of your head to your eardrum. If you’re a swimmer, you can get swimmer’s ear from water that stays in your ear after swimming. This moisture encourages the growth of bacteria inside your ear, causing an infection. Other causes of swimmer’s ear symptoms include:

  • Placing your fingers in your ears
  • Putting cotton swabs or other objects in your ears

Putting objects in your ears damages the skin lining in your ear canal, which is very thin. Usually, otitis externa (swimmer’s ear) gets treated with eardrops explicitly designed for the job. If you have the symptoms of swimmer’s ear, prompt treatment protects your ears from complications and further infections.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear

The symptoms of swimmer’s ear remain mild at first. They can, however, worsen rather quickly if the symptoms aren’t treated. Symptoms of mild swimmer’s ear include:

  • Itching in the canal of your ear.
  • Slight redness in your ear.
  • Mild discomfort. This discomfort feels worse when you pull on your outer ear (pinna) or push on the tragus in front of your ear. Your tragus is the bump in front of your ear.
  • Clear or odorless fluid might drain from your ear.

The symptoms of the moderate progression of swimmer’s ear include:

  • An increase in itching.
  • An increase in pain.
  • Your inner ear becomes redder.
  • Fluid drainage increases.
  • You feel like the inside of your ears feels full. This feeling might be caused by fluid and debris in the ear from the infection.
  • Muffled hearing.

Advanced progression of swimmer’s ear includes such symptoms as:

  • Increased pain in your ear, neck, face, or the side of your head.
  • Blockage of your ear’s canal.
  • Outer ear redness or swelling.
  • Neck lymph node swelling.
  • A fever

When Should You See Your Doctor with Swimmer’s Ear Symptoms?

To keep your hearing and ear health at its best, you should see your doctor right away even if you have mild otitis symptoms. Go to the emergency room immediately if you have extreme pain or a fever spike.

What are the Causes of Swimmer’s Ear?

Usually, swimmer’s ear gets caused by a bacterial infection in the ear. A fungus or virus might also cause swimmer’s ear, but these instances remain rare. Your ear has natural defenses against developing bacteria and infections. Some of the natural protective features of the ear that prevent illness include cerumen. The ear canals secrete cerumen, which appears as a waxy substance. These natural waxes work like a waterproof film inside your ears. Cerumen prevents water from collecting and bacteria from growing inside your ears. It is also acidic, which slows the possibility of bacterial growth in the ear. Another function of cerumen remains to collect dead skin cells, dirt, and a variety of debris. Once the debris becomes collected in the ear wax, it moves the debris out of your ears. The cartilage that partially covers the ear canal also prevents foreign substances from entering the ear canal.

How Swimmer’s Ear Happens

Swimmer’s ear occurs because your natural defenses against the bacteria get weakened. It might occur due to:

Excess moisture in the ear from various causes. Humidity, heavy perspiration, and water in the ears remain the most common causes of bacterial growth inside the ears.

Abrasions in the ear canal. If you clean out your ears with a hairpin or cotton swab, you may cause damage to your ear that brings on an infection. Other causes include wearing earbuds, scratching your ear with your finger, or wearing hearing aids or earbuds. These tiny scratches might cause infections to occur inside your ear.

Sensitivity. Hair products, hair dye, and jewelry might irritate your ears that increase your chances of getting swimmer’s ear.

Complications from Swimmer’s Ear

If swimmer’s ear doesn’t get treated promptly, several complications might set in. Swimmers ear usually responds quickly and readily to treatment. If not treated, however, it might cause such complications as:

A temporary loss of hearing. This situation usually improves when the infection clears.

A long-term infection called chronic otitis externa might occur. If you have the symptoms of an ear infection for more than three months, your swimmer’s ear might be established. You might have a chronic condition if you have an undiagnosed or treated allergy or a strain of bacteria that remains harder to treat. You can also have an allergy to antibiotic eardrops or a combination of fungal and bacterial ear infections.

Ear cellulitis. Sometimes swimmer’s ear becomes a deep tissue infection.

Damage to the bone and cartilage of the ear. This situation includes early skull base osteomyelitis. In the case of this osteomyelitis, the infection spreads to the bones and outer ear of the lower area of the skull. Extreme pain occurs. People who are older, diabetic, or have weakened immune systems remain more likely to get this complication.

If your swimmer’s ear develops into a more widespread infection, your nerves, brain, and other parts of the body might get affected. This rare condition might become life-threatening.

If you have the symptoms of swimmer’s ear, see our audiologist team in NJ right away. Treatment might include antibiotics and hearing aids to improve and hearing problems that might occur due to swimmer’s ear.

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