Something you might not know is that over 2 million trips to the hospital are made to treat swimmer’s ear each year. There are a variety of causes and treatments. However, it can be quite painful. Before diving into the pool, know about swimmer’s ear and its causes.

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear also known as otitis externa is an infection in the outer ear canal. It runs from the eardrum to the outer ear. This is the part of the ear that we use for hearing. Fungi or bacteria trapped in the water can travel down the outer canal and into the eardrum. In turn, this causes the intense discomfort that we know as swimmer’s ear.

No one is safe from getting swimmer’s ear. However, this condition is more commonly associated with children and teenagers. This is likely, due to having smaller canals, which makes it easier for things to get trapped in them.


There are few causes of swimmer’s ear. We break these down into two categories listed below!

  • Swimming in ponds and lakes: Untreated water is more likely to carry different types of bacteria. These bodies of water are not cleaned regularly. So they are more likely to infect people with swimmer’s ear.
  • Inserting foreign objects: Putting different things into our ears can be harmful to them. Things like fingertips, cotton swabs and other objects can irritate the lining of the canal. It can hurt our ears even more if they are not sanitized.

Swimmer’s ear happens when something unfamiliar enters the ear. This can be both unintentional and intentional. Oftentimes, we are unaware of what might be floating around in the water while we are swimming. However, when we feel something stuck in our ears, we want to get it out. So this might involve sticking things into our ears without thinking about it, which makes things worse.


Swimmer’s ear symptoms start mild and get worse over time. Watch out for these and seek medical attention when needed. Signs include:

  • Inflammation of the ear canal
  • Itching inside the ear
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Swelling and redness
  • Tenderness of the external ear
  • Trouble hearing
  • Pain in the ear when chewing

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s best not to jump to conclusions. Think about your recent activities. Did you expose yourself to any of the causes of swimmer’s ear? If you did, depending on the severity of your symptoms, follow some of our tips!


The best way to avoid the pain that comes with swimmer’s ear is to not get it in the first place. We have compiled a list of tricks to keep your ears safe in the water. Our guide tells you the do’s and don’ts of swimming!


  • Dry your ears with a towel or soft cloth immediately after getting out of the water
  • Wear a swim cap or earplugs when swimming
  • Tip your head from side to side to drain excess water


  • Swim in open, murky bodies of water
  • Insert foreign objects into your ears (cotton swabs)

Using a ¼ cup of vinegar and ¼ of rubbing alcohol can protect your ears too. Use a dropper to slowly put this mixture into your ears. Do this before swimming in any open body of water.


Early on, swimmer’s ear can be treated using a home remedy. While more severe cases might need medical attention. We tell you about both processes below.

Home Remedy

All you need is a crushed small clove of raw organic garlic, sterile gauze and medical tape. Place the garlic inside the gauze and secure it in place using the medical tape. Remain in the same position for 10-15 minutes before removing it.

Medical Solution

According to Mayo Clinic, your doctor will treat swimmer’s ear using a suction device and ear drops. The device cleans discharge, clumps of earwax, flaky skin and other debris out of your ear. The ear drops prescribed depend on how severe your infection is.


Swimmer’s ear can happen to anyone. However, by taking safety measures to prevent it, you can avoid infection. Just know when to get help and your ears will be back to normal in no time!