It is a type of infection in the outer ear canal, which is the passageway that connects your eardrum to the outside of your head. A common cause is water that sits in your ear for an extended period, providing a damp environment that encourages the growth of germs. It is also possible to get swimmer’s ear by putting your fingers, cotton swabs or other foreign items in your ears, which can cause damage to the thin layer of skin that lines your ear canal.

Swimmer’s ear is also referred to as otitis externa. Most of the time, eardrops can be used to treat swimmer’s ear. Treatment as soon as possible can assist to avoid complications and more serious infections.

What are the Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear?

At first, the symptoms of swimmer’s ear are usually moderate, but if the infection is not treated or spreads, the symptoms might become more severe. Swimmer’s ear is sometimes classified by ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctors as having three phases of progression: mild, moderate, and severe:


  • An itching sensation in the ear canal
  • A slight redness of the inside of your ear
  • Pain in your outer ear that is exacerbated by pulling on your outer ear or pressing on the tragus, which is the small bump in front of your ear.
  • Clear, odorless fluid coming from the ear


  • Itching that is more extreme
  • Pain is becoming very acute.
  • Excessive fluid flow from your ear as well as increased redness in your ear.
  • An internal sensation of fullness in your ear and a partial obstruction of your ear canal. caused by swelling, fluid and debris
  • Reduced or muted hearing ability


  • Serious pain which may spread to the side of your head, your neck and your face.
  • Complete obstruction of your ear canal
  • Inflammation or redness around your outer ear
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck
  • Fever

When Should You See an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor?

If you experience even the slightest indications or symptoms of swimmer’s ear, you should see an ENT doctor. If you develop a fever or severe pain, call your ENT or go to the emergency department immediately.

Complications of Swimmer’s Ear

If swimmer’s ear is treated swiftly, it is unlikely to be serious. However, complications can and do occur. These include:

  • Hearing loss that is just temporary: It is possible that you will have muffled hearing, which will normally improve after the infection has cleared.
  • Infection that lasts a long time: If the signs and symptoms of an outer ear infection persist for more than three months, the infection is often called chronic. As a result of conditions that make treatment difficult, chronic infections are more common.
  • Damage to the bones and cartilage: Swimming-related otitis externa is a rare but serious consequence that arises when an infection in the outer ear and the bones of the lower part of the skull progresses to the point where it causes more acute discomfort.
  • Individuals over the age of 65, those with diabetes and those with weaker immune systems are all at increased risk for developing this condition.

Preventing Swimmer’s Ear

To avoid swimmer’s ear, follow these guidelines:

  • Keep your ears as dry as possible: After swimming or bathing, tilt your head to the side to allow the water to drain from your ear canal more effectively. Only the outer ear should be dried and it should be done gently using a soft towel.
  • Swim with caution: On days when high bacteria counts are reported in lakes and rivers, avoid swimming in those bodies of water.
  • While swimming, keep your ears protected: While swimming, use earplugs or a swimming hat to keep your ears from being overly wet.
  • Keep your ears protected from irritants: Using cotton balls, place cotton balls in your ears while applying treatments such as hair sprays and hair colors.
  • After an ear infection or surgery, proceed with caution. Speak with your doctor before going swimming if you have had an ear infection or ear surgery in the recent past.

To learn more about swimmer’s ear, the signs to look out for and treatment, get in touch with Vero ENT Associates at (772) 408-9556.