Advanced Audiology Assoc.
Swimmer's Ear and Temporary Hearing Loss
Summer is here, and the heat is on. And when it comes the excitement of splashing and swimming, nothing can get in the way… sort of.
Since our ears are already sensitive to practically everything we do, we must be vigilant in taking care of them. In the summertime, taking a few precautions can help you protect your hearing health.
What is swimmer’s ear?
It sounds pretty cool, right? Like it could be an aerodynamic helmet that helps swimmer’s achieve Michael Phelps speed. Except it’s not.
According to the Mayo Clinic, swimmer’s ear is an infection. Yikes! Remember earning in science labs that bacteria grows in warm, moist environments? Well, that is exactly what happens when we don’t properly clean our ears after swimming. To be fair, children are more susceptible to swimmer’s ear because of how narrow their ear canals are. So, it may not even be a problem with not trying to clear out the water - sometimes it just gets trapped. However, the Mayo Clinic also notes that putting fingers, cotton swabs or other objects in your ears can also lead to swimmer's ear by damaging the delicate layer of skin lining your ear canal.
How does it cause temporary hearing loss?
If left untreated, swimmer’s ear can lead to a temporary hearing loss. Similar to someone who slowly loses their hearing from a continuum of loud noises – the high frequency becomes muffled. According to Healthy Hearing, some people with temporary hearing loss from swimmers’ ear have described the loss as similar to being underwater, with gargled sounds, or as if someone has their hands covering their ears.
Another problem that may occur, is the onslaught of tinnitus. While not necessarily damaging, tinnitus can be loud, irritating and uncomfortable – especially for a child who is not able to understand what's happening.
The DOs and DON’Ts of swimming this summer
DO dry your ears with a clean towel after swimming.
DON’T use cotton swabs to clean the water out.
DO wear ear plugs, especially when visiting heavily trafficked ponds and lakes.
DON’T use ear buds after swimming, the trapped moisture is a harbor for bacterial growth.
DO consider using ear drops or rubbing alcohol to help keep dry out your ears after swimming.
DON’T put ear drops or rubbing alcohol in your ears if you have any damage to your ear canal lining.
DO visit a doctor if you suspect swimmer’s ear.
DON’T wait to get treatment – the longer you wait, the more damage you can do to your ears.
DO have fun this summer!
Have more questions about temporary hearing loss? Contact us!