Swimming is a very popular sport and is great for you. While it may be a great activity for getting and staying in shape, your ears and your hearing can suffer if you are not careful. Every year, many people are sent for medical help at walk in health clinics and local doctors offices around the United States. There are things you can do to protect your ears and hearing.
How do you get “swimmer’s ear”?
Also called otitis externa, swimmer’s ear is caused by bacteria that is often found in natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and the ocean. It can also be found in pool water if the pool has not been treated properly with chemicals like chlorine. People have even reported problems with swimmer’s ear after taking a bath or shower. Exposure to any kind of water can leave you vulnerable to this problem. The problem is that when you are exposed to certain bacteria, the result can be inflammation of the tube that connects the eardrum to the outer ear.
Luckily, most cases of swimmer’s ear do not occur after a one-time exposure to the bacteria but need repeated exposures to it. The blow is usually a two-fold issue. The water itself can break down the wax in your ears, it protects your ear from infections and bacteria. This gives the bacteria a way in.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms that send people to walk in health clinics are not pleasant. They can include moderate to severe pain and itchiness. Some people report a loss of hearing. In many cases, there is a watery discharge that comes from the ear.
In a number of mild cases of swimmer’s ear, all that needs to be done is keep the area dry for a bit of time. For some people with mild swimmer’s ear, the people at the local walk in health clinic can prescribe drops that can help.
There are times when swimmer’s ear grows into an ear infection. These can block the ear canal entirely or cause a fever. Here are some symptoms to watch for, you will need to go to a doctor’s office or the local walk in health clinic if you experience any of these:
- Pus drainage from the ear.
- Blockage of the ear canal.
- Redness or swelling of the area.
- Problems with your hearing.
Left untreated, serious swimmer’s ear can cause a number of bigger health issues such as chronic ear infections, the bone and cartilage around the ear can become infected, and hearing loss that can be permanent.
For people who wear hearing aids, there is often the question, “should I just skip swimming?” The answer, thankfully, is no. While being fully submerged in water is not the greatest thing for most hearing aids, there are solutions that you can find with the help of your hearing specialist. You should make sure you keep to a regular schedule of hearing aid maintenance. Bacteria can slip into your hearing aid and cause problems that way so keep it clean and bacteria free!
Are there things I can do to protect my ears?
Whether you have had swimmer’s ear in the past or have never suffered from it, you can take steps to keep your ears healthy when you spend time in the water. Here are a few:
- Clean and dry your ears after getting wet. Whether you take a shower or a swim, clean and dry your ears afterward.
- Look at the pool before you jump in. Is the water clean? Can you smell chlorine? If the water is cloudy you should not dive in. It can be contaminated with harmful bacteria.
- Keep anything you place in your ears clean. Whether you wear hearing aids or listen to your earbuds while swimming, anything that goes inside your ear needs to be cleaned regularly.
- If you have a blockage, do not try to get it out with a Q-tip. People all over the planet use these to clean out their ears but they can do more damage.
There are a lot of health advantages that come along with swimming. If you love to swim but find your ears blocked afterward, the best thing you can do is visit a walk in health clinic or your doctor for help.