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12 September 2014

Swimmer's ear

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Swimmer's ear, as defined by The Mayo Clinic, is an infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. The medical term for swimmer's ear is otitis externa. Symptoms often occur after water gets trapped in the ear, with subsequent spread of bacteria or fungal organisms. Because this condition commonly affects swimmers, it is known as swimmer's ear.

Swimmer's ear often affects children and teenagers, but can also affect those with eczema (a condition that causes the skin to itch), or excess earwax.

A common source of the infection is increased moisture trapped in the ear canal, from baths, showers, swimming, or moist environments. The most common cause of this infection is bacteria invading the skin inside your ear canal. Swimming in polluted water can lead to swimmer's ear. Water-loving bacteria such as Pseudomonas, as well as other bacteria or fungi (in rare cases), can cause ear infections. When water is trapped in the ear canal, bacteria that normally inhabit the skin and ear canal multiply, causing infection of the ear canal. Swimmer's ear needs to be treated to reduce pain and eliminate any effect it may have on your hearing, as well as to prevent the spread of infection.

Putting fingers, cotton swabs or other objects in your ears also can lead to swimmer's ear by damaging the thin layer of skin lining your ear canal. Swimmer's ear is also known as acute external otitis or otitis externa.

Other factors that may contribute to swimmer's ear include:

  • Contact with excessive bacteria that may be present in hot tubs or polluted water
  • •Excessive cleaning of the ear canal with cotton swabs or anything else
  • •Contact with certain chemicals such as hair spray or hair dye (Avoid this by placing cotton balls in your ears when using these products.)
  • •Damage to the skin of the ear canal following water irrigation to remove wax
  • •A cut in the skin of the ear canal
  • Other skin conditions affecting the ear canal, such as eczema or seborrhea

Symptoms

The symptoms can include:

  • Drainage from the ear yellow, yellow-green, pus-like, or foul smelling
  • Ear pain, which may get worse when you pull on the outer ear which may lead to intense pain that may spread to the neck, face, or side of the head
  • Swollen lymph nodes around the ear or in the upper neck. Redness and swelling of the skin around the ear
  • Itching of the ear or ear canal
  • Sensation that the ear is blocked or full
  • Hearing loss

Treatment

In the first instance it is important to consult your GP in these matters. Prompt treatment can help prevent complications and more-serious infections. Treatment for the early stages of swimmer's ear includes careful cleaning of the ear canal and use of eardrops that inhibit bacterial or fungal growth and reduce inflammation.

If a preceived loss of hearing is experienced then contact earpeace™ to arrange an appointment with one of our Audiologists.

Prevention

earpeace™ has a range of products that swimmers can wear to protect their ears from water ingress. These include Alpine filtered ear plugs for the casual swimmer, both children and adults, that use a swimming pool. In these circumstances the filtered ear plugs should not be submersed in water depths of greater than one metre. We also provide customised catamaran ear moulds for the more serious open sea swimmer.

 

earpeace™ is a privately owned Irish Company, with its head office located in Galway, Ireland. The company is committed to providing exemplary audiology services and associated world leading technology products to its customers throughout Ireland. For further information about the company, please follow this link. 

 

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