Can You Get Swimmer’s Ear Without Swimming?

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“Swimmer’s Ear” is just a common name for an infection in the outer ear canal. The official name for this condition is otitis externa. While it’s mostly common in swimmers because of how often they’re in the water, it can happen to anyone. This infection usually starts in the eardrum and runs to the outside of the ear. The culprit is water that gets stuck in the ear, which allows bacteria to grow in the moist area.

What are the symptoms?

diagram of the ear otitis externa

Swimmer’s ear is usually a mild irritation that can be treated fairly easily. If it’s left untreated, the infection spreads, forcing you to seek medical attention.

  • Mild Signs & Symptoms
    • Itching and slight redness inside the ear canal
    • Mild discomfort when pulling on the outer ear
    • Drainage of odorless, clear fluid
  • Moderate Symptoms
    • Intense itching and increase in pain
    • Redness has gotten worse in the ear
    • There is more drainage
    • Muffled or decrease in hearing
    • Your ears feel full or blocked because of fluid, debris, and swelling
  • Advanced Symptoms
    • Severe pain that radiates to the side of the head, face, or neck
    • The ear canal is completely blocked
    • Swelling or redness has spread to the outer ear
    • Your neck lymph nodes are swollen
    • You’ve developed a fever
  • You should seek medical attention if you have severe pain or develop a fever.

What are the causes of Swimmer’s Ear?

  • Swimming or water that has high bacteria levels
  • Cleaning your ears with cotton swabs or other objects too often or too aggressively
  • Using objects such as hearing aids or earbuds on a daily basis
  • Irritation or skin allergies to hair spray, hair dyes, or jewelry

What happens if Swimmer’s Ear Goes Untreated?

  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Chronic Otitis Externa or a long-term infection
  • Cellulitis or a deep tissue infection
  • Cartilage and bone damage
  • The infection spreads to other parts of your body
woman swabbing her ear

How can you prevent Swimmer’s Ear?

  • Dry both ears thoroughly, making sure all of the water is out. Avoid using objects such as cotton swabs. Instead, tip your head to the side and letting the water drain out.
  • Pay attention to how high the bacterial counts are and avoid swimming if possible.
  • Plug your ears with cotton balls when using hair dyes, hair sprays, and more.