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How to Treat Swimmer's Ear

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Jun 01, 2021

How to Treat Swimmer's Ear

While swimmer’s ear treatment is normally needed after a trip to the beach, you may also need it while staying on dry land. This article will look into the causes of swimmer’s ear, its symptoms, and the available treatments for it. Here’s how to get rid of swimmer’s ear fast. 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Your Ears

What is Swimmer’s Ear? 

The ear is more than what you usually see. It is divided into three sections:

  • Outer ear
  • Middle ear
  • Inner ear

The outer section is the visible part of your ear and the one most exposed. It is made up of the auricle, which is the external part of the ear or the part that is normally referred to as the ear in normal conversation. Then there is the ear canal, which connects to the external layer of the eardrum.

When moisture gets inside the ear, it normally will not pass through the eardrum. The moisture tends to stay in the ear canal. The wet ear canal becomes an ideal breeding ground for germs and so infection is likely to happen there.

Swimmer’s Ear Causes

  • As the condition’s name suggests, swimming is the most common cause of swimmer’s ear. With this condition, water gets lodged inside the ear in large enough amounts and so the ear does not dry thoroughly. The moisture left inside the ear becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and infection.
  • The skin that lines the ear canal is very thin and delicate. It can get damaged quite easily. The insertion of earbuds, the use of earphones, and intense scratching can scratch that skin, which can lead to damage. That wound has the potential of also becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and can lead to an infection.
  • Ear wax is the natural protection of the ear against infection. Unfortunately, the supply of this wax can get depleted and expose the ear canal to potential infection. 

First Aid: Foreign Object Inside the Ear


Here are the signs and symptoms that your ear canal is infected:

  • You can feel that your ear canal is swollen.
  • There is visible redness of the ear canal area.
  • You feel pain in the ear canal area or you are experiencing discomfort even when there is no pressure applied.
  • You notice that there is a discharge or pus coming from the ear canal.
  • There can also be an intense itching that can be hard to ignore.

Perhaps the most noticeable symptom of swimmer’s ear is diminished hearing. There are several reasons why your hearing can be affected and lessened. But with swimmer’s ear, you may get the feeling that water is stuck inside your ear. That feeling can be very uncomfortable.

If you experience intense pain in your neck area or on your face, that may indicate that the infection has become severe. Fever and swollen lymph nodes are also indications that the infection is getting worse. Most of the time, these symptoms will appear together. 

Risk Factors

So, who is at risk of getting an outer ear infection? Swimming is the main risk factor for swimmer’s ear. The risk goes higher if you swim in water that has a high level of bacteria.

Cleaning the ear canal too often can also increase the chances of getting an infection as it strips away the vital ear wax, which coats the ear canal from infection. Frequent cleaning also increases the chances that you can scratch and wound the ear canal, which is highly sensitive.

The use of headphones and some types of hearing aids can increase the likelihood of infection. If you have eczema or some form of skin allergy, there is also a higher chance that you will suffer from swimmer’s ear.

Narrow ear canals are likelier to trap moisture, which is why it is common to see this form of infection in children

How to Relieve Plugged Ears

How to Get Rid of Swimmer’s Ear Fast

Most cases of swimmer’s ear will heal by itself without any treatment. However, you should also keep in mind that this condition is not contagious.

There are cases where the infection is severe enough that it will require some form of treatment. Here are some of the more common treatments prescribed by doctors for ear canal infections:

  • Antibiotic eardrops. Sometimes, doctors may prescribe antibiotic eardrops that are mixed with steroids to help stop the swelling.
  • For people with diabetes or those with weakened immune systems, fungal infection can happen in the ear canal. Doctors may prescribe antifungal drops.
  • Over-the-counter medications can be bought for treating the pain. But in cases where the pain is too severe, then a prescription pain medication can be used.

If you are experiencing pain in your ear, seek medical attention right away. Do not wait for it to become severe. In severe cases where ear infection is left untreated, abscesses can develop around the area of the infection, which may cause more pain. 


The good news is that swimmer’s ear is easily preventable. There are several measures that you can take that would ensure moisture will not get trapped in your ear. Try these to prevent or get rid of swimmer’s ear fast. 

  • Use cotton balls or earplugs to prevent water from entering your ear when swimming. Make sure that you use soft cotton plugs.
  • Use a swim cap that can also cover your ears.
  • Do not scratch the inside of your ear, even if you are using cotton swabs. There is still a risk that you can damage the skin surface there.
  • Do not remove ear wax on your own.
  • Make sure that you towel your head and your ears after you swim to remove excess moisture.

In short, you have to keep your ears dry at all times and safe from scratches. Remember that children are more prone to this kind of infection so you must assist them and make sure that their ears will not stay wet.

Key Takeaways

Swimmer’s ear is an easily preventable and treatable condition. When swimming, you are recommended to wear a cap or earplugs. In addition, once you get out of the water, make sure to towel dry your hair and ears. These will greatly help when you want to get rid of swimmer’s ear fast. 

If you feel any of the symptoms of ear infection, seek immediate medical attention to get it treated.

Learn more about Ear, Nose and Throat conditions here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

John Paul Abrina, MD

Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Jun 01, 2021

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