Got the bug for wild swimming? 3 top tips to protect your ears

Published 08 August 2021  | Updated 16 May 2024  | 3 mins read

Fancy a dip in some freezing cold water? The popularity of outdoor swimming has skyrocketed in recent years. In fact, according to Outdoor Swimmer magazine’s annual report, online searches for the term “wild swimming” increased 94% between 2019 and 2020.

While it might not be for everyone, the benefits are clear: keeping fit surrounded by beautiful scenery – what better way to start the day? Nonetheless, wild swimming can pose risks to your ear health if you are not properly equipped.

What is swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear is the common name for ‘Otitis Externa’ – an infection of the ear canal. Whilst swimming is not the only cause of Otitis Externa, water can carry certain bacteria that leads to an increased risk of infection. The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain or feeling of pressure in the ear
  • Temperature or sickness
  • Reduced hearing sensitivity
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Irritation around the ear

It is important that you see a GP if you develop any of these symptoms as, left untreated, swimmer’s ear can also cause fever and swelling to the ear and neck. Fortunately, there are simple and safe steps you can take to protect your ears and lower your chance of infection.

Invest in a swimming cap or ear plugs

Woman in swimming cap

The key is to try and keep your ears as dry as possible. Whilst wearing a swimming cap or ear plugs won’t guarantee protection from swimmer’s ear entirely, it can certainly help. Silicone or conical ear plugs are recommended for swimming, whereas foam ear plugs are designed to prevent hearing loss and should therefore be avoided. If you are an avid swimmer, it might be beneficial to invest in some custom-made ear plugs that are
moulded to fit your ear canal.

Try out a different swimming stroke

A penchant for swimming front crawl or backstroke? Why not try out breaststroke the next time you go for a dip. Not only will this allow you to keep your ears above the water, but it is also considered one of the best strokes for outdoor swimming. This is because it allows you to observe nature and your surroundings whilst you swim, disturbing the water much less than other strokes. If that’s not enough to convince you, breaststroke is also fantastic for strengthening your heart and lungs while toning thighs, upper back, triceps, hamstrings and lower legs.

Dry your ears properly

After you have finished your wild swim, it’s important that you take the following measures to ensure your ears are properly dried:

  • Use a towel to gently dry your ears
  • Tilt your head back and forth so that each ear faces down to allow water to escape the ear canal
  • Gently pull your earlobe in different directions to help water drain out

Worried about your ears or hearing?

If you’re concerned about your hearing, book a free hearing test with us today. Call 0800 52 00 546, book online or drop into your nearest THCP practice.

NOTE: Whilst we hope these tips are helpful for preventing swimmer’s ear, it is important to note that wild swimming also poses other risks to your health and safety if not researched correctly beforehand.

Please make sure to consult relevant and trusted official bodies and organisations before taking to the water.