How to avoid swimmer’s ear

Published 09 April 2018  | Updated 16 May 2024  | 3 mins read

A girl swimming front crawl in a public swimming pool.

The weather is starting to warm up, and people are beginning to hit the pool for some exercise and sun. But whether you’re regularly caught doing laps, or you cautiously hit the shallow end, everyone is vulnerable to the same risks when it comes to the health of your ears.
Water can carry certain bacteria which can increase the chances of infection. Easily prevented, you can save yourself from some nasty side effects a few safe methods. One of the most common preventable ear infections is ‘swimmer’s ear’, an infection common (but not restricted) to those who participate in water sports.

How can I tell it’s swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear has some distinct, and very uncomfortable, symptoms including:

  • Redness of the outer ear
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Discharge
  • Muffled hearing

If left untreated, symptoms can worsen to include fever and swelling to the ear and neck. It’s unlikely that these kinds of symptoms would be ignored, but it’s important to go to your GP or local audiologist if you think you might have swimmer’s ear. If you’re always in and out of the water, it might be worth looking at some custom-made ear plugs, specially designed to keep your ears water-resistant. These will prevent water getting in your ear, greatly reducing the likelihood of developing swimmer’s ear.

Not just for swimmers

Swimmer’s ear gained its name because its most common cause is excess moisture in the ear, but there are other ways the infection can occur.
Damage to the ear canal, including any scratches or impact possibly caused by external sources such as cotton buds, leaves your ear open to infection. It’s worth repeating that you should never put things such as cotton buds, hair pins or any other items in your ears, as it can have a serious impact on your health. Not only are you running the risk of compacting ear wax further into your ear canal or perforating your eardrum, swimmer’s ear can be another consequence of what seems to be a menial task.

The best way to prevent this is not to try and remove ear wax yourself with any household objects, and instead go to your local audiologist if you have any problems with your ears.

Think of the ways that we care for our skin on a daily basis. We have different kinds of soaps, moisturisers and maintenance for our skin types because we know what we like. It’s no different when it comes to our ears, which can be sensitive to all kind of external sources.
The delicate skin on your ears could be reacting to anything from a new shampoo to the metal of your earrings, so if you persistently have the symptoms of swimmer’s ear it’s worth thinking outside the box as to what could be the cause. Take jewellery off at night or when showering and be aware of any changes to the health of your ears if you change products such as shampoos and soaps.

We can help

If you think you have swimmer’s ear, or are suffering from any similar symptoms, book an appointment online with your local THCP hearing practice to get some friendly help and advice. If symptoms are severe or persist, visit your GP immediately.