Do your ears feel itchy, sore and swollen? Perhaps they feel blocked or you have some discharge. If this is the case, then you may have swimmer’s ear. You might be thinking that you’ve not been swimming for a while, so it cannot possibly be that. However, swimmer’s ear is actually more common among people who spend a lot of time outdoors rather than swimming.
Swimmer’s ear affects the area of skin that covers your outer ear canal, leading to the eardrum. It often happens as a result of water in the ear after swimming, diving, having a shower, bath, spending a lot of time outside in the rain or in humid conditions. While the ear can effectively protect itself from infection when it’s dry, if the ear becomes damp, bacteria can thrive. Combined with the warm conditions of your ear canal and the bacteria that can accumulate in water, water trapped by earwax can lead to infections.
Swimmer’s ear can be caused by putting things in your ears such as cotton swabs or even your fingers, which can damage the delicate thin layer of skin lining your ear canal. Diabetes is a leading cause of otitis externa. The high blood sugar is a perfect environment for yeast to thrive. Other factors that can greatly increase your chance of developing swimmer’s ear include:
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear generally start off as mild. However, without treatment, it can get worse or spread.
If you get prompt treatment, swimmer’s ear shouldn’t become serious, but there can be complications. Untreated swimmer’s ear can be one of the most easily avoided causes of hearing loss, long-term or deep tissue infection, damage to bone and cartilage or a more widespread infection develops.
There are some simple things you can do to avoid developing swimmer’s ear and protect your hearing health:
While prompt treatment can help prevent complications or more serious infections developing, swimmer’s ear treatment is generally straightforward and can include:
Depending on the severity of your swimmer’s ear infection, you may find that your treatment takes some time to work and you may have to repeat the treatment.
Even if you have mild symptoms of swimmer’s ear, it’s a good idea to contact your doctor. However, if you have any pain in your ear, decreased hearing in one or both years, a fever or abnormal discharge from your ear then you should call your doctor immediately or visit the emergency room. If you are concerned that your long-term hearing has been affected then book a consultation with a licensed hearing care professional who will be able to evaluate your hearing.
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