How to heal swimmers ear infection (Otitis Externa)

Woman showing discomfort in her ear with her hands.Swimmers ear is an infection that occurs on the outside of a persons ear canal due to bacterial growth.  The infection and pain will occur from the eardrum to the outer part of head.  One of the easy ways to determine if you most likely have swimmers ear is by simply moving your head back and forth or wiggling your earlobes.  When doing this you will feel minor, moderate or possibly significant pain depending on the severity of the infection.

What Are The Causes Of Swimmers Ear (Otitis Externa)?

Excessive Moisture

Standing moisture is one of the main causes of a person to develop a swimmer ear infection.  This is usually due to excessive use of water or moisture being around an individuals ear canal or the inability of water to exit the canal.  If your ear canal is extremely small, narrow or blocked you are more likely to become infected.  One of the best way to reduce the chance of swimmers ear infection is to wear ear plugs while swimming and / or be sure to dry your ears well after exiting the water.

Also by using hairspray and other glamour products that may be directly impacted by a spray could cause it as well.  It is recommended to cover your ear with your hand when using these types of products.

If you are in extraordinary pain, have extreme redness in your ear, fever or other significant symptoms it may be necessary to contact your physician.  Always seek professional guidance before attempting any methods if you are unsure of your exact condition.

Scratching Your Ear

While swimming is definitely the most common cause, simply scratching, rubbing or breaking your skin inside your ear increases your chance of getting an infection.  This is more common in children while at a younger age when they may have just recently discovered their ears.  Kids are known to place foreign items such as toys, coins, food or other objects that could leave abrasions around the ear prompting a swimmer ear infection out of water.

Also while clean and frequent cleanings of the ear canal is recommended and helps reduce swimmers ear, over cleaning could erupt an infection as well.  When using cotton swabs or tips be sure not to over power your ear with force, and if you are using wet swabs, be sure and dry your ears once your cleaning has been completed.


Extreme weather conditions can also contribute to swimmers ear.  The types of conditions that are probable to cause an infection are winds, rain, sleet and snow.  All these types of precipitations contribute to added moisture in and around the auditory ear canal.  The use of of ear muffs would help reduce the the chance of getting an infections, of course that would only be warranted in the cooler months rather than the warmer months.

Middle Ear infection

If you have been diagnosed with a middle ear infection even if being treated with antibiotics, the infection you have may have discharge or pus draining inside your ear canal.  It is possible while you have cured your middle ear infection, Otitis Externa formed from the drainage of the previous infection you had.Diagram of the anatomy of the ear.

What Are Some Of The Swimmer Ear Symptoms?


Some people that get swimmers ear will notice a slight or moderate itch around and inside the ear canal.  This is usually in the beginning stages, however this can sometimes continue thru much of the infection.  When you begin the try and itch your ear it may begin to cause a sore or tenderness around the infected area.  This can be quite bothersome when you feel the need to itch your ear, but in doing so may cause an influx of pain.


This is the one thing you will easily notice.  Your ear lobe will be sore and the pain will likely be intense from your eardrum, thru your ear canal and on the outside of your head.  Pulling or simply moving your ear lobe may be painful and the slightest touch around your ear will be feeling uneasy as well.

Eating may also cause pain as well with the movement of your jaws while chewing.  This movement vibrates up to your ear canal and will cause additional pain.  Chewing of gum is not recommended when trying to battle a swimmer ear infection.

Hearing Loss

Your hearing may be affected as well.  You will begin to feel as though your ear is full.  There may be slight popping sound only you are able to hear inside your ear.  This is from the buildup of the bacteria and inflammation that is inside your ear canal and your hearing will be reduced until the infection has dissipated.

How Do You Get Rid Of Swimmers Ear?

Since swimmers ear infections is mostly fed off of moisture inside your ear, drying it out would be the first thing you should do to try and starve it and quickly reduce the infection.  Doing this as soon as your symptoms occur will increase the speed of improvement and recovery.

Vinegar + Rubbing Alcohol Formula

Vinegar and rubbing alcohol evenly mixed is a great way to evaporate the moisture inside your ear.
Mix the same equal amounts of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol.  Add a few drops to your ear while lying down with your non-infected ear on a pillow.  Allow the drops to stay in your ear for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Get up and allow any excess liquid to pour out of your ear.  Repeat these steps a couple times a day.

Hair Dryer

A low heat blow dryer is another way to help dry out your ear.  However you most likely do not need to use this method if you are using the Vinegar and alcohol formula.  It is also recommended to keep your blow dryer on low, far away from your ear opening or with indirect heat.  Be sure not to keep it in the same spot for a lengthy period of time to prevent burning your skin.

While you are treating your swimmer ear you may need to use some temporary pain reducers to alleviate some of the pain caused by your infection.  To do this you can alternate between over the counter ibuprofen and acetaminophen.  Be sure to follow the instructions found on the label of the product you are using..

Avoid Water During Recovery

heal swimmers earThis one should be a no brainier but is often over looked.  If you follow any of the steps above to start the healing of your swimmers ear, jumping right back in the swimming pool will void all your efforts.  If you must swim, be sure to use ear plugs and stay above water until the healing process has completed.

When you are taking baths or a shower use your ear plugs as well and when adventuring outdoors it may not be a bad idea to wear protection around your ears to keep the elements of mother nature from tampering with your already infected and sore ear any farther.

By thinking smart and avoiding your ear canal from gaining repeated exposure to the elements that Otitis Externa thrives on will increase your healing process that much faster.

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