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 Swimmers Ear


Swimmer’s Ear

Michael Crawford, M.D.

People will get water in their ears that do not come out and therefore it breaks down the skin much like a baby’s bottom in a wet diaper. This allows bacteria to then have their way with the soft tissues and cartilage and canal.

What are some of the symptoms of swimmer’s ear?

Gently pull on the outer ear. If the outer ear is tender when you pull on it, then that is probably a swimmer’s ear versus a middle ear infection. Both of them give hearing loss a feeling of fullness and both can give drainage. This tissue does not expand as it becomes infected. It expands on itself, so it is like a tooth ache, it just thumps badly.

How is swimmer’s ear treated?

Most of the time, cleaning the ear gently and getting the moisture out of there. A lot of our drops are designed to suck out the moisture so they are alcohol or glycerol based, and certainly cleaning under a microscope.

How long does swimmer’s ear last?

We usually see pain 3-5 days but it’s still tender for a seven to 10 day duration.

How can I prevent swimmer’s ear?

Keep the water out. If you are going swimming, make sure all the water is out when you’re done. If you need to, put a little bit of alcohol in that will suck up the water. I usually stand on one foot and hop with my held tilted a little bit to the side. That usually breaks the fluid enough that it comes out. You’ll look funny doing that maneuver but it does work. Please don’t use Q-tips because that makes matters worse. They are traumatic to the skin; they break down the defenses that you have naturally to prevent these infections.

Swimmer's ear is a common condition that affects both children and adults. Dr. Michael Crawford​, Board Certified Otolaryngologist at Boys Town Ear, Nose & Throat Institute, explains some of the symptoms of swimmer's ear, how it is treated, how long it lasts and how to prevent it. ​​