Swimmer’s ear or otitis externa is an irritation, infection, and inflammation of the ear which happens when moisture is trapped inside the ear canal. The moisture trapped in the ear canal can increase bacteria growth which will cause ear infections. There are lots of complications caused by swimmer’s ear if no medical attention is sought.
What are the Risk Factors of Swimmer’s Ear?
What swimmer’s ear risk factors must you avoid or be aware of? Find out below:
- Frequent cleaning of the ear canal either with the use of cotton swabs or other objects.
- Extreme exposure to earphones, headsets, and other hearing devices.
- Irritation from hair dyes, jewelry, and other chemicals.
- Skin conditions that may affect the ear canal like seborrhea and eczema.
- Direct contact with contaminated water such as in lakes, polluted water, or dirty hot tubs.
- Narrow ear canals.
- Infected hair follicle or folliculitis.
What are the Issues Caused by Swimmer’s Ear?
Although otitis externa is not dangerous in its early stages, it will endanger our hearing health once it becomes severe. During its mild symptoms, immediate medication will help you to avoid the following complications:
Chronic Otitis Externa (Long-term Infection)
- This is a recurring and long term infection of the outer ear. The symptoms can be moderate to severe. If symptoms continue for more than three months, treating it is harder due to heightened skin allergic reactions to antibiotics for bacterial and fungal infections.
Necrotizing/Malignant Otitis Externa (Bone and Cartilage Damage)
- If the infection spreads out further, it can damage the outer ear’s skin and cartilage, including the bones in the lower portion of our skull. When this occurs, it can be severely painful. The individual will be at higher risks if they have existing medical conditions such as weak immune system and diabetes.
Temporary to Permanent Hearing Loss
- Swimmer’s ear can cause temporary hearing loss. Because of the infections obstructing your ear canals, you’ll experience a muffled hearing. Although it is temporary, in rare cases, it can lead to permanent hearing loss once the infection damages your inner ear hair follicle. The temporary hearing loss usually gets better after the treatment and the ear is cleared up from infection.
What are the Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear?
It is important to know the swimmer’s ear symptoms so it can be given immediate medical attention, and prevent serious complications from developing. Here are the noticeable signs of swimmer’s ear:
- Itching in the ear canal.
- Slight redness in your ear which can be severe redness in moderate condition.
- Discharge of transparent and odorless fluid
- Pus discharge
- Muffled hearing
- Swollen neck lymph nodes
How Can Swimmer’s Ear be Treated?
There are various treatments for swimmer’s ear depending on how mild or severe the case is. Most of the times, your otolaryngologist will prescribe you with ear drops. However, under certain conditions, they are treated with oral and intravenous antibiotics, corticosteroids, acetaminophen or Ibuprofen for pain relief, or surgery for infected skull bones.
How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear
Here are some preventive measures to avoid swimmer’s ear:
- Refrain from swimming in dirty or polluted waters.
- Wear earplugs when swimming.
- Dry your ears thoroughly after swimming.
- Cover your ears with cotton when using hair chemicals such as hair spray.
- Don’t poke fingers in your ear because fingernails can cut your ear skin.
- Do not overdo ear cleaning because it will abrade your ear canals.
Why is it important to know how serious swimmer’s ear can get if left untreated? Being aware of the consequences will make you avoid the factors causing it and prevent yourself from suffering future pains.
Always consult your hearing health professional whenever you have concerns with your ears, no matter how small it is. Preventing further damages to the ear will save you from worst complications. Do you need advice and would wish to know more about swimmer’s ear? Visit us at Beltone Audiology and schedule a free consultation. You can also call us at (888) 210-5846 for chance to share you hearing concerns with our hearing health experts.