Swimmer's Ear: What Is It And What To Do About It

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It’s summer time and with it comes issues with swimmer’s ear.

You might be thinking that swimmer’s ear is an unwelcome byproduct of swimming in the pool, lake or ocean. But did you know you can get it on land too?

Regardless of how you get swimmer’s ear, it is important to understand what it is, and what signs and symptoms would prompt you to see your local ENT doctor.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer part of the ear canal. It is different than the traditional “ear infection” which is an infection behind the ear drum. Swimmer’s ear only affects the external part of the ear canal.

Typical symptoms start with itching of the ear, followed by pain and swelling. Typically once the swelling of the canal occurs, hearing decreases because sound waves cannot make it to the ear drum. People with diabetes and other immunocompromised states are at an increased risk of developing a bone infection if not promptly treated.

Treatment of the condition is a combination of ear debridement (which involves suctioning the ear and removing the infection) and ear drops. At times, oral antibiotics are needed. Treatment usually lasts for 7-10 days with significant improvement seen over the first 72 hours after starting treatment.