When thinking of caring for your ears, you may only think of protecting them from loud noise. However, conditions such as swimmer’s ear can also cause or exacerbate problems and discomfort.
Trust your instinct when you second guess jumping into a pool because you are worried about possibly getting swimmer’s ear. It is an infection that occurs when water gets trapped in the ear after swimming, bathing, or even spending time at the spa, and allows for bacteria to grow. Following simple steps to protect your ears can help you avoid the painful infection.
Tips Before You Swim
- Use Ear Plugs
By preventing water from entering the ears, you are far less likely to have a problem. There are earplugs specifically designed for swimming and bathing caps can also cover the ears to minimize intake of water.
- Avoid Bacteria-Filled Bodies of Water
Lakes, ponds, rivers, or other bodies of water with lots of bacteria can also present a problem. Check for posted signs alerting you to levels of bacteria and if it is safe to swim. When high bacteria levels are in the water, it could mean bacteria in your ears.
- Check Cleanliness of Pools and Spas
Dirty water is likely filled with bacteria. If you are unsure about the cleanliness of a pool or spa, do not enter.
Tips After You Swim
- Shake and Drain Your Ears
Simply tilt your head and let the water drain from your ear. Tugging your earlobe at different angles can also be helpful.
- Dry Your Ears Well
Using a clean towel, rub the outside of your ear gently. You can use a hair dryer, too. On a low setting, keep the hair dryer about 12 inches away from you ear.
- Make Use of Ear Drops
Over-the-counter ear drops are available that can dry up any remaining water in your ears. It is also possible to make homemade ear drops from a half-teaspoon of white vinegar and a half-teaspoon of rubbing alcohol. Pour the ear drops into each ear and then let it drain out. However, do not use ear drops if you have had recent ear pain, ear surgery, or have a tear in your eardrum (perforated eardrum).
Protecting Your Ears
Though it is called swimmer’s ear, swimming is not always the cause. Sometimes it occurs when you scratch the inside of your ear canal, which can break the skin and make it susceptible to germs and infection.
- Do Not Stick Things in Your Ear
This may be something you have heard or read before—and it still holds true. Never put cotton swabs, pen caps, tissues, your finger or anything else in your ear canal. It can damage your skin and it is possible that bits of cotton can get stuck and break down in your ear, increasing your risk of infection.
- Earwax is Not a Bad Thing
Earwax is important to protecting your ears, so when you forcibly remove it you increase the chance of getting swimmer’s ear. Furthermore, you may be actually pushing wax farther into your ear. If you believe earwax is a problem for you, check with your doctor or an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat doctor—or ENT) about safe ways to remove it.
- Keep Headphones and Hearing Aids Clean
Both of these devices can rub against the ear canal and potentially lead to swimmer’s ear by scratching the skin, leading to infection. It is important to keep headphones and hearing aids clean after daily use to lower risks of infection.
- Use Cotton Balls to Protect Your Ears
When using beauty products like hairspray, dye, or chemicals, use cotton balls to protect your ears. Chemicals in cosmetics can also cause swimmer’s ear for some people.
- Consult Your Doctor
If you are living with diabetes or an immune deficiency (like HIV) you may be at greater risk for getting swimmer’s ear and major complications. Check with your doctor to see if there are extra steps that you can take to lower your risk.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection that you can take steps to avoid. Making sure to swim and bathe in clean waters, refraining from sticking objects in your ears, and consulting your doctor for best practices are just a few of the ways you can care for the health of your ears.
If you’ve been struggling with your hearing abilities, contact us at Audibel. We provide comprehensive hearing health services from tests to fittings. Contact us today to learn more!