Swimmer’s ear, clinically known as otitis externa, appears as a red, swollen ear canal that has become infected. The condition is common in swimmers who have water remaining in the ear after swimming. This excess water creates a moist environment favorable to bacteria. Other conditions which may cause swimmer’s ear include putting items such as fingers or foreign objects into the ear canal.
Swimmer’s ear results from the ears’ natural defenses being overwhelmed. These protective features discourage bacterial growth with the production of earwax and the structure of the ear, which helps water drain out more easily. The natural defenses of your ears may become overwhelmed by excessive moisture, abrasions to the ear canal, or an allergic reaction to something placed in the ear that promotes infection.
Swimmer's ear treatment
Prescribed antibiotic eardrops may be sufficient in clearing up an ear infection. If the infection has spread to the middle ear or beyond, oral antibiotics will be prescribed. Corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and itching, and over-the-counter pain medication can reduce discomfort. A warm compress held against the ears may also relieve discomfort.
There is another ear condition caused by water, which is different from swimmer’s ear. It is called surfer’s ear, and it is an ear canal condition that can significantly impact normal hearing. Surfer’s ear is caused by repeated exposure to cold water and wind and is medically known as exostosis of the external auditory canal. The ear canal narrows with cooling that stimulates bone growth and blocks the eardrum. This narrowing can result in painful ear infections or hearing loss as a result of trapped water and earwax found in the canal.
The best way to prevent surfer's ear is to use earplugs when in cold water. Many surfers choose to wear swimming caps in the water to prevent cold water and wind from directly contacting the ear. To be extremely safe, use both ear plugs as well as a swimmer’s cap.
Surfer’s ear treatment
Surfer’s ear treatment is typically an outpatient surgery performed under general anesthesia. The surgery seeks to remove built-up bone to restore hearing and relieve pain.
For those who swim daily to those who just dabble in water sports every now and then, the effects of swimmer's ear and surfer's ear are important to understand. If you believe you may be suffering from swimmer’s ear or surfer’s ear, please contact the specialists at West Medical at (855) 690-0565, and we will be happy to answer any questions you have.
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