Swimmer’s ear is a condition that develops when multiple bony growths form in the ear canal and cause a partial or complete blockage. It’s common among people who experience prolonged exposure to cold water and wind, such as cold water surfers.
Symptoms of Swimmer's Ear
The primary symptoms of swimmer’s ear include:
- An ear infection due to trapped water and debris
- Hearing loss that develops due to a serious blockage
- A sensation of plugged ears after being in the water
- Feeling like water is in the ear canal
- Increased Ear Wax
- Difficulty Hearing
Treating Swimmer's Ear with Surgery
If you are diagnosed with swimmer’s ear, you will need surgery to remove the bony growths and completely eliminate the blockage. Unfortunately, there is no other effective treatment option available. The procedure can usually be performed inside the ear canal and will typically involve removing the growths with tiny chisels. However, if the bones are in close proximity to the eardrum, a drill may be used instead of chisels to ensure precision. If the growths are located in a particularly delicate area, your ENT may recommend addressing them through a small incision behind the ear instead of through the ear canal. After surgery, you will be free to return home immediately to begin an approximately one-month-long recovery period. During that time, you will need to keep water completely out of the ear canal. Avoid swimming and surfing, and wear earplugs when taking a bath or shower. Swimmer’s ear has a high recurrence rate, so plugs should also be worn moving forward once you resume surfing, diving and swimming.
Tips for Preventing Swimmer's Ear
Because surgery is necessary for this persistent condition, prevention is key. Follow these tips to avoid swimmer’s ear:
Use Ear Plugs in the Water
Plugs that are designed for surfers and divers can prevent cold water and air from entering the ear canal and causing swimmer’s ear.
Consider a Neoprene Hood
A neoprene hood worn in conjunction with ear plugs will give you the best protection from cold water and air.
Dry Your Ears
After surfing, diving or spending time in the water, insert three drops of a vinegar-alcohol solution into the ear canal to dry it out.