Can swimming damage your ears?

This is a question that we hear quite a lot, and the short answer to it is simply ‘yes’! 

However, things are a bit more complicated than that, as you might imagine.  There’s no need to give up swimming!  In fact, you can protect yourself from damage by using one of our swimmer’s earplug sets.

Today, though, we’re going to take a look at how swimming can lead to a condition known – rather appropriately – as ‘Swimmer’s Ear’.

This is a form of inflammation, irritation or infection that can affect both the outer ear and the ear canal, and can vary quite substantially in terms of the amount of discomfort that it causes.  The most extreme cases can definitely be considered chronic, though.

What are the symptoms of swimming ear damage?

There are a number of common symptoms, including:

  • Pain in and around the ear
  • Swelling in the ear canal
  • A feel of fullness or heaviness in the ear
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Blockage
  • Sharp, intense pain: this often occurs when chewing
  • Pain in certain areas of the neck

What are the causes of it?

(Obviously, we’re looking for an answer with a bit more depth than ‘swimming’!)

Swimmer’s ear typically occurs amongst teenagers and young adults, and may occur at the same time as a middle ear infection or a respiratory infection such as a cold.

One of the most common causes – as might be expected when it comes to dealing with an infection – is swimming in unclean water.  There are a number of different pseudomonas and bacteria found in water, and it’s also possible for fungus to develop, especially in public pools (yuck!)

Other causes of swimmer’s ear can include:

  • Scratching the inside of the ear
  • Getting something stuck in the ear canal
  • An attempted clean with cotton swabs that goes a bit too far into the canal

On some occasions, swimmer’s ear can occur over a long-term.  Usually, this is the result of things like:

  • Allergic reactions to things being placed in the ear
  • Skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis

How is it treated?

The most simple thing you can do to avoid swimmer’s ear is to pick up a pair of earplugs designed specifically for swimmers.  After all, a prevention is always better than a cure!

Typically, swimmer’s ear will be treated using ear drops containing anti-biotics for any time between 10 to 14 days depending on the individual case. 

On some occasions, doctors might recommend putting a wick into the ear in order to allow the drops to travel through the canal to the end. 

In the case of more chronic conditions, anti-inflammatory steroids are sometimes used to help reduce the levels of discomfort.

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