Hearing and Balance


Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal. It runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. It’s often brought on by water that remains in your ear after swimming or diving, creating a moist environment that triggers bacterial growth and causes itching and pain.

Swimmer’s Ear is actually a pretty common condition that many people suffer from. It happens when bacteria invade the skin in your ear canal, causing an infection. Most of the time you can treat this with eardrops and prompt treatment means you can prevent more serious infections or complications.

No matter what time of year, you risk getting swimmer’s ear by just going in the water. If you’re not careful, it can happen as soon as your fingers get close to your ears.

Putting your hands or cotton swabs into your ears when they come out of the water also leads to infection and swelling because it damages that delicate skin lining the canal.


Swimmer’s ear symptoms can be mild at first, but they can worsen if the infection isn’t treated or spreads. Doctors often classify swimmer’s ear according to mild, moderate and advanced stages of progression. At a more severe level of severity, you may experience pain while chewing food and it will hurt when your head is touched. The most serious cases have been known to hinder hearing in one or both ears.

Mild to Moderate Symptoms – You may experience itching in your ears, slight redness in the ear, mild discomfort that can be triggered by pulling on the outer ear. There may also be a slight drainage in the ear as manifested by a clear, odorless fluid.

Moderate progression – In the moderate progression of swimmer’s ear, you may feel more intense itching accompanied by increasing pain as well. The redness will also be more extensive and the fluid drainage may also increase. You can also note a feeling of fullness in the ear or partial blockage caused by the swelling, debris and fluid. This could result in muffled or decreased hearing.

Advanced progression – In the advanced stage of swimmer’s ear, a patient may feel severe ear pain that can radiate to the face, neck (swollen lymph nodes) or side of the head. There might be complete blockage in the ear canal and swelling of the outer ear. Symptoms may also be accompanied with fever.


The ear is a fragile body part; we suggest that you seek medical attention if you notice mild symptoms of swimmer’s ear to avoid further complications. If your swimmer’s ear symptoms are accompanied by severe pain and fever, call a doctor immediately or go the nearest emergency room.


Swimmer’s ear is less common and can be caused by a fungus or virus. When bacteria infect the outer ear canal, it leads to inflammation of the skin and produces fluid that blocks your ears. The infection may spread to other parts of your body such as your facial area, neck or chest. Swimmer’s ear is usually treated with antibiotics in order for the infection to clear up.

A person with swimmer’s ear will most likely have its ears’ natural defenses overwhelmed. Some of the conditions that can weaken the ears’ defenses and cause swimmer’s ear include excess moisture in the ear, abrasion/irritation in the ear canal and sensitivity reactions.

As it is called, swimmers ear is usually linked to swimming, getting water that has high bacteria levels in the ear. Aggressive cleaning of the ear canal with foreign objects (Q-tips, cotton swabs, etc) may also trigger swimmers ear.

If you’re wearing a hearing aid and you don’t practice proper hygiene, you may also acquire swimmer’s ear. People with skin allergies or those who exhibit irritation from fancy jewelry, hair spray or hair dyes may also contract swimmer’s ear.


Hearing loss is a common symptom of swimmer’s ear or otitis externa. It may be temporary or permanent depending on the severity and treatment taken. For patients with temporary hearing loss, use of an ear plug has been shown to decrease the amount of fluid in your ear canal while increasing pressure in your ears that will help assist drainage. Patients should take care to keep their body temperature up and avoid hot water during this time if possible. Persistent problems should be discussed with a physician for further advice and potential prescription treatments.

Swimmer’s ear is the common name for otitis externa, a bacterial skin infection of the outer ear that occurs after being exposed to water in a swimming pool or ocean. Symptoms include itching and ulceration on the surface of the external auditory canal and can take up to 3 weeks to heal completely.

If not treated quickly and thoroughly with antibiotics, swimmers ear may progress into a painful infection of bone and cartilage damage (early skull base osteomyelitis), leading to permanent hearing loss if untreated long-term.

When swimmer’s ear develops into advanced skull base osteomyelitis, a rare and life-threatening complication occurs.


Keep your ears dry. Swimmers ear or otitis externa is a painful condition that can result from an infection of the outer ear canal. It’s caused when swimmers fail to dry their ears after swimming, leading to dampness in the canal and increased risk for bacterial growth. To help minimize your chances of getting swimmers ear, keep your ears freely streaming during drying periods by tilting your head 45° downward and pull back hair out of ears.

Avoid putting foreign objects in your ear or else you risk irritating the sensitive skin within your ear canal or causing a rupture. Never attempt to dig out earwax with items such as cotton swabs, paperclips, or hairpins because these items can pack material deeper into the canal and cause irritation of the thin skin of the inner-ear.


Swimmer’s ear need to be treated right away. If you’re in Springfield, PA and need to go to a trusted hearing clinic to get your swimmers ear treated,  PA Center for Hearing and Balance can help. Our audiologist will make sure to get your ears back in good shape.

PA Center for Hearing and Balance offers comprehensive hearing tests in the Springfield, PA area. Give us a call to be connected with our audiologist.

Hear Better. Live Better.