Ear Nose & Throat

Swimmer’s Ear – Symptoms & Treatment Options

Swimmer’s ear is an outer ear canal infection that is often caused by water getting trapped inside your ear canal. The water makes it much easier for bacterial to grow and an infection to develop. It most commonly develops after swimming in a lake hence the name “swimmer’s ear.”

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear

As with many bacterial infections, symptoms of swimmer’s ear are generally moderate at first and get worse if the infection is not properly treated. Swimmer’s ear symptoms are categorized into three separate stages:

  1. Mild Symptoms: Itchy feeling, redness in the ear, possible drainage
  2. Moderate Symptoms: increased itchiness and pain in the ear, muffled hearing, drainage of fluid and/or pus, pain with chewing
  3. Advanced Symptoms: Intense pain, fever, hearing loss, swelling of the lymph nodes and side of the face.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms (especially the moderate or advanced symptoms) it’s important to seek medical attention. The bacterial infection associated with swimmer’s ear is not likely to go away on its own. 

Treatment Options

Swimmer’s ear is generally treated with prescription ear drops. When you go in to see your doctor, they will likely first clean out your ear using a suction device, or by flushing the ear out with water.   Cleaning your ear allows the drops to work better and improves your hearing so that the drops can have better contact with the ear canal which will improve their effectiveness and speed up resolution of symptoms.  Oral antibiotics are often prescribed for moderate and severe infections.

If the pain associated with your swimmer’s ear is intense, pain medication may be recommended as well.

While you are treating your swimmer’s ear infection it’s important to avoid swimming and flying, and to not wear ear plugs.

If you believe you have swimmer’s ear, contact our clinic today to set up an appointment.