What is Swimmer’s Ear?

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

What is Swimmer’s Ear?


An ear infection is not a pleasant experience. The uncomfortable stuffiness in one or both ears and accompanying dizziness can quickly lead to frustration. The process of straining to hear sound that, at least in part, evades the senses, creates the sensation equivalent to being in a long, narrow tunnel or having cotton crammed into your ear when it’s not. If the stuffiness weren’t enough, itching adds to the problem and, at times, is enough to drive a person mad. That’s when the pain begins. It starts off as a mild soreness and escalates from there. Before long, the ear is a throbbing, burning, itchy mess.

There are three common types of ear infections based on their location: otitis interna (inner ear), otitis media (middle ear), and otitis externa (outer ear). The latter infection affects the ear canal, and is also referred to as Swimmer’s Ear. There are a number of causes and irritants that can lead to the Swimmer’s Ear infection.Valdese ENT

Bacteria and Mold

While Swimmer’s Ear commonly occurs with swimmers, it can affect anyone. The infection is an inflammation of the ear canal that is caused by bacterial or mold growth. It occurs when the skin of the ear canal is irritated by small debris like water, soap, sand, or other small particles.

Hearing Devices

Since bacteria can cling to the surface of a hearing device, wearing a hearing aid can also lead to an infection when bacteria on the device transfers to the ear canal. The inside of the ear is warm and moist and provides the perfect environment for bacteria and mold growth. However, with the proper precautions, such as wiping the device clean with approved sterilization wipes and wiping the ear clean, the risk of developing an infection can be lessened.

Water and Soapy Irritants

The skin inside the ear is sensitive and there are a number of ways that it can become irritated such as when water, soap, shampoo, or even hair spray finds its way into the ear canal. The sensitive skin inside the ear becomes irritated and itchy. The longer the irritant sits in the ear canal, the more irritated the ear becomes. As a result, inflammation takes hold, and narrowing of the ear canal begins, leading to infection.

Excessive Cleaning

Although it is not advised, inserting items into the ear canal for wax removal, such as cotton swabs, Bobby pins, and more, can also irritate the ear and lead to infection. These items can scratch the inside of the ear and, hence, pave the way for bacteria and mold growth to begin.

However, there are other causes of irritation and infection. It’s vital to take steps early on when symptoms are first noticed to eliminate the problem early. The longer the infection is allowed to fester, the worse it becomes. While an ear infection may begin with mild discomfort and itching, it can quickly escalate from there. Inflammation and pain can worsen over time. The ear can develop a yellow or brown foul-smelling discharge. Hearing can also be affected by many reporting the feeling of fullness or stuffiness in the ear on the side where the infection is located.


A confirmed diagnosis of Swimmer’s Ear requires an exam by a doctor. Ear, Sinus, and Allergy Center can quickly determine the type of infection and the appropriate treatment needed to resolve the issue. Often, medication in the form of antibiotic or antiseptic ear drops can be prescribed. However, if the infection has spread to other areas outside of the ear, the doctor may recommend an oral antibiotic.

Swimmer’s Ear can result from a number of causes and irritants. However, regardless of the cause of the infection, early intervention can eliminate the problem before it gets out of control.

If you need additional information about Swimmer’s Ear, or would like to schedule an exam, give us a call today at 828-319-2226. Ear, Sinus, and Allergy Center professionals are dedicated to providing you with the answers you need.