Swimmer’s Ear is a common condition that can affect those who swim often or anyone with open exposure to high levels of water, sand, dust or dirt. This condition, called otitis externa, is a fungal or bacterial infection of the outer ear canal commonly referred to as an earache.
“Swimmer’s ear” doesn’t just affect swimmers. Improper use of cotton swabs, insertion of foreign bodies (like peas) into the ear, and damage to the outer ear can all cause a case of otitis externa.
Why Is It Called Swimmer’s Ear?
Swimmer’s ear gets its name from one of its most common causes: swimming. When bacteria from polluted water enters the ear, it can settle in and cause infection. Even swimming pool water can carry bacteria.
Swimmer’s Ear Symptoms
The most obvious sign of an outer ear infection is pain, but there are other signs as well:
- Drainage from the ear
- Hearing loss
- Itchy ear or ear canal
- Peeling or shedding skin inside ear
Because swimmer’s ear is bacterial in nature, you’ll need to see a doctor to receive proper treatment.
Cleaning the Ear
Cotton swabs are often misused to clean the ear. It’s important to remember that nothing should ever enter the ear canal. Usage of cotton swabs merely impacts ear wax, or cerumen, which may cause pain, pressure, ringing, dizziness, and even difficulty hearing. More importantly, inserting a swab too far can damage, or even puncture, the ear drum. The ear is self-cleaning and ear wax is produced to catch dirt and serve as a protective layer and lubricant. Over time, the ear wax sloughs away on its own.
In the end, the body is built to naturally take care of itself. Cotton swabs have many uses, but cleaning your ears is not one of them.
Call Central Plains ENT & Audiology at (402) 502-6970 for more information or to schedule an appointment.