Swimmer’s Ear: Understanding Causes and Treatment

Water that enters the ear after swimming or bathing creates a moist environment. As a result, the ear can become home to bacteria. Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal. swimmer’s ear can cause severe pain, pressure, and swelling if left untreated. Dr. Michael Cohen in Long Island, NY, invites you to learn more about this condition, how it can be prevented, and how he can help if you or your child suffer persistent symptoms.

ear canal

Swimmer's ear is characterized by infection of the outer ear canal that can result in a host of painful symptoms.

Common Causes and Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear

Some of the most common symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:

  • Pressure
  • Pain
  • Headaches
  • Impaired or muffled hearing
  • Itching
  • Tenderness
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear

After developing swimmer’s ear, many individuals may resort to turning the head on the side with the water in the ear, and then hitting the head with a hand to free the water. Others may use a small object placed inside the ear canal. Both methods are not recommended, as they can cause severe headaches as well as damage to the ear and the ear canal.

Risk Factors and Prevention

There are some risk factors associated with swimmer’s ear, including:

  • Swimming in water with elevated bacteria levels
  • Continuous cleaning, stretching, or poking of the ear canal with cotton swabs, bobby pins, or other objects
  • Having a small ear canal
  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema

Fortunately, swimmer’s ear can be prevented. For example, keeping ears clean and dry can help prevent the condition. After bathing or swimming, thoroughly dry the ear and ear canal with a cloth. You should also consider wearing earplugs when swimming. 

It's important to note that while over-cleaning the ear canals can cause swimmer's ear, the condition can also result from excessive earwax buildup. Swabbing the ears with cotton swabs is not only harmful, but unnecessary. However, if the ear canal fails to naturally maintain a healthy amount of earwax, you can try using over-the counter drops. However, if symptoms persist, consult Dr. Cohen.

Treating Swimmer's Ear

If you develop persistent symptoms of swimmer's ear, Dr. Cohen may first clean the ear of discharge, wax, and other debris. He may then recommend antibiotic or corticosteroid drops, along with special instructions for keeping your ears dry. 

Contact Us for Swimmer's Ear Treatment in Long Island

Whether your swimmer’s ear is chronic or acute, Dr. Cohen has treatment options for you. As a board-certified specialist in otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, and facial plastic surgery, he will also provide education about swimmer’s ear and the best methods of prevention for you and your lifestyle. Dr. Cohen is currently on staff in the otolaryngology department at Long Island Jewish Hospital, Cohen’s Children’s Hospital, and Winthrop University Hospital. Contact us online to book a consultation for yourself or your child.

Dr. Cohen

Michael S. Cohen, MD

Michael S. Cohen, MD is board-certified in Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, and Facial Plastic Surgery. He uses the latest tools and treatments to perform precise, comfortable, and effective care. Dr. Cohen is the Medical Director of the ProHealth Day-Op Ambulatory Surgical Center. He is also affiliated with: 

  • NYU - Winthrop University Hospital
  • Northwell Health Long Island Jewish Hospital
  • Northwell Health Huntington Hospital
  • Cohen’s Children’s Hospital

To speak with Dr. Cohen about your needs, request an appointment online or call us at (516) 704-7004.

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