swimer's ear symptoms and causes

Swimmer’s ear – Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, Complications

Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the ear canal. It’s often accompanied by inflammation, pain, and swelling in the outer ear canal and occasionally lead to a decrease in hearing. Swimmer’s ear is also known as otitis externa, which is its medical name.

It is often caused by water, which remains in your ear which creates a moist environment that aids bacterial growth.

There can be pain with the movement of the outer ear. Generally, high fever is not associated with swimmer’s ear, but it can be present in severe cases.

It can last from a few weeks to few months depend upon severity.


Swimmer’s ear symptoms divided into mainly three categories, mild, moderate, and advanced progression. Usually, its symptoms are mild at first and then go worsen and worsen if the infection isn’t treated.

Mild and moderate symptoms

  • Ear pain is a predominant symptom in the people with swimmer’s ear.
  • Ear discharge
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling and discharge in the ear canal.
  • Temporary conductive hearing loss.
  • Slightly redness in some cases.
  • Feeling fullness or blockage in your ear due to swelling or fluid.
  • Swelling in the lymph node in your neck.
  • Fever and severe pain in advance progression.
  • Pain worsens when the outer ear pulled or touched gently.

Causes of swimmer’s ear

There are many causes for this condition

1. Water in your ear.

Humid weather and water that remain in your ear after swimming or sometime after bathing can make an environment for bacteria or in short, we can say about this condition.

2. Scratches in your ear canal

Cleaning your ear yourself with cotton or anything can cause scratches in your skin and these small breaks in the skin invite bacteria to grow. So be very careful when you put anything inside your ear.

3. Allergies

Jewelry can cause allergies and skin conditions which promote bacterial growth and infection.

4. Presence of germs

In your skin is uninjured and healthy, then the only reason for swimmer’s ear is exposure to high concentration pathogens which mainly found in ponds polluted by sewage, etc.

5. Skin conditions

Chronic skin conditions can also affect ear canals such as seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, abnormalities of keratin production, or even normal bacteria can cause infection.

6. Fungal infection

A fungal ear infection which is also known as otomycosis can cause mild to extremely severe.  There can be no symptoms and fungus exists in the ear canal harmless parasitic with the host, but the physical presence of the only fungus.

After that fungus starts reproduction, which increases the fungus debris can cause pressure and extreme pain.

7. Swimming

Swimming in contaminated water is the most common way to invite swimmer’s ear. But swimmer’s ear can also cause by water trapped in the ear after showering in humid weather.

8. Objects in the ear canal

You might think that exposure to water is the only main cause of this condition, but this is not always the case. When you use objects such as cotton swabs and other objects can break in the ear canal can cause breaks in the skin this further can cause inflammation in your ear canal. Once your ear is inflamed, then external otitis can easily cause by small scratching by any small object.

9. Infections

Most of the cases of external otitis or swimmer’s ear are due to Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa which cause by the Aspergillus and Candida albicans which are species of most common fungal pathogens.

Risk factors

  • Swimming without earplug
  • Swimming in water, in which the bacteria level is higher rather than a well-maintained pool.
  • A narrow ear canal that can easily trap water.
  • Cleaning your ear canal very aggressively with a cotton swab or with any other objects.
  • Not cleaning your ear canal with soft objects, but with other objects.
  • Having skin allergies with jewelry or with other hair objects.
  • Using too much ear devices such as headphones.
  • Having skin condition and skin breaks in your ear.


Swimmer’s ear is not a serious disease, but some complication can occur with this. Some of them are.

1. Hearing loss for a short time

You can experience obstructed hearing for a short time due to a blocked ear, which gets better after the infection goes away.

2. Cellulitis

Cellulitis which are deep tissue infection can rarely, but possibly occur due to this. It can result spread of infection in deep layers of the skin, but it rarely happens in case swimmer’s ear.

3. Chronic otitis externa

It can lead you to chronic otitis externa. Outer ear infections are considered chronic if symptoms and signs won’t go away and lasts for more than three months. Chronic infections are more common if an infection is due to a bacteria, allergic reaction to antibiotic ear drops, a skin allergic reaction and due to the combination of bacteria and fungal reaction.

4. Necrotizing otitis externa.

An outer ear infection can cause damage to the skin, the cartilage of your outer ear and bones of the lower part of the skull. People with diabetes and with weaker immune systems are at the higher of this complication. it is also known as malignant otitis externa.

5. Other infection

If the swimmer’s ear becomes necrotizing otitis externa then the infection may spread to the other of the body, such as near nerves or brain and become life-threatening.


You can prevent swimmer’s ear by taking some precautions such as

1. Avoid anything inserting in your ear

You should avoid inserting anything in your ear canal. Remember the use of cotton swab or buds is the most common cause of acute otitis externa. You should never attempt to scratch your ear wax with a paper clip, hairpin or with any other foreign objects.

2. Avoid swimming in contaminated water

You should avoid swimming in polluted water or water where are the signs or symptoms of the high bacterial count.

3. Make sure your ears are dry

You should keep in mind that your ear should dry, especially if there is exposure to moisture from swimming or bathing. If there is water in your ear you can shake your head and use a dryer to dry your ear.

4. Avoid bathing, washing your hair, or swimming if there are symptoms of acute external otitis starts.

5. Use of earplug

Use of earplug when swimming and shampooing your hair can prevent you from swimmer‘s ear. But there is something you should remember about the use of earplug.

Poorly and hard fitted earplug can scratch your skin, which can make you more available for this disease.

If you are using earplug during the acute episode you should use disposable earplug or should clean and dried earplug properly to avoid contaminant your ear.

6. Protect your ear from allergic products

You protect your ear from allergic products if you have any, such as hair products, jewelry, etc.

7. Use caution

If you have recently ear surgery or infection, then you should concern, your doctor with prevention you should swim or not.

8. Don’t put anything inside your ear to dry out the ear because your ear has its self-cleaning and self-drying mechanism which is evaporation.


Swimmer’s ear is an ear infection, which is not serious. You will see its symptoms in the mild stage after that you should start taking care of it and should start taking prevention. This will help you to get rid of swimmer’s ear easily and less painfully.

Do you ever have swimmer’s ear? If yes. how did you treat?

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