If you have ever experienced the incredibly painful condition of swimmer’s ear, you will want to take any steps possible to avoid it happening again. This condition occurs when bacteria are trapped within the ear canal and allowed to grow. As you can imagine, the growth of nefarious bacteria within the ear is painful and can even be harmful to your hearing in extreme conditions. What can be done to prevent swimmer’s ear? Several steps can be taken for general ear health, prevention on the day of a swim, and finally some precautionary measures after the swim takes place. Let’s take a look at these three phases of prevention when it comes to swimmer’s ear.
General Ear Protection
Some things can be done to maintain the health and cleanliness of the ears on a daily basis. Although it is counterintuitive, you don’t want to overdo it when it comes to cleaning the ears. The natural function of earwax is to keep dangerous debris and bacteria out of the ears, so don’t overdo it with cleaning. All cleaning should happen in the outer ear, and the best way is to use a clean cloth to wipe out the curvature of the outer ear. Be sure not to force anything into the ear canal, including a cotton swab. These objects can place bacteria into the ear rather than removing it, making swimmer’s ear more likely to occur. If you wear hearing aids or earbud headphones, be sure to keep them clean as well. Cleaning solutions are available for each, or you can swab them with rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball on a regular basis. If you are in the habit of using hair products, it is also a good idea to put cotton balls in your ears while spraying or getting harsh chemicals in the area surrounding the ears.
Before You Swim
Before going for a swim, consider a few precautionary steps that can keep your ears free of bacteria. In the first place, you will want to be judicious in your choice of a swimming location. A clean, large swimming pool is your safest bet, but other locations can be safe, as well. If you are going to swim in a body of water such as a pond, river, or smaller lake, be sure to ask about the bacteria count in the water. Even the great lakes can be at risk of high bacteria levels close to the shore. Salt water has a natural cleansing effect that tends to be better than “fresh” bodies of water when it comes to bacteria. If you are swimming in a smaller pool, spa, or hot tub, be sure it is clear of bacteria. Particularly heated pools and tubs can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Another step you can take is to wear earplugs designed specifically for swimming. These devices will keep water from entering the ear canal whatsoever. Some swimming caps can also be effective for this purpose, fitting neatly over the ears and enclosing them in a dry space.
After You Swim
After you finish your swim, the precautionary measures continue. Be sure to shake out your ears, draining them of all fluid after your swim. You will feel the water draining from the ears, and the process should be complete. Dry your ears with a clean dry cloth or towel. You may want to use a hair dryer on the low setting at a distance of 12 inches or more to dry out the ears. Ear drops are available for purchase that are designed to dry the ears after swimming. You can also make your own solution of a half teaspoon of white vinegar and a half teaspoon of rubbing alcohol. Simply pour this solution into each ear and let it drain out completely. If you feel water trapped in your ear after swimming, it might be a good idea to seek medical assistance to dry the ears, particularly if it stays trapped in the ear for any amount of time. Furthermore, if you feel any pain, itching, or discomfort in the ears, seek out medical attention. The sooner you are able to remedy the feeling, the less likely you will be to let bacteria grow within the ears.
Posey Hearing Center
At Posey Hearing Center, we provide comprehensive hearing health services. If you’ve experienced changes in your hearing, contact us today to learn more about how we can help.