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Swimmer's Ear

Man suffering from Swimmers Ear

Don't you just love summer weather! Okay maybe not the very humid and sticky days but it sure beats a frigid snowy day in my book. There are so many ways that people try to beat the summer heat. Grab a tall glass of sweet tea and relax in the pool or enjoy some sun while eating popsicles on the beach (sunscreen please). Summer fun can turn into a real bummer if that refreshing pool or beach water sits in the ear canal too long however.

The number of episodes of acute otitis externa (AOE) commonly known as swimmers ear tends to rise during the warmer times of the year due to the amount of time that we spend in the water. The external ear canal (EAC) is the tube which leads to the ear drum or tympanic membrane. The canal has an additional protective layer which is provided by the wax produced in the ear. When this waxy layer is broken down due to excess moisture from water exposure, the bacteria in the ear can infect the skin leading to swelling and pain when touching the ear. The ear canal can drain leading to buildup of wet, flaked off skin. The build up along with the continued swelling from inflammatory response can create problems hearing.

An uncomplicated AOE is typically treated with antibiotic ear drops. If there is a lot of swelling at the canal and the drops cannot get down into the ear canal to treat the infection, a small wick is placed. The wick will help draw the medication drops down further into the ear canal. The wick usually has to stay in place for a few days and does contribute to even more troubles with hearing.

Swimmers ear doesn't only happen from fun times at the beach or pool. It can happen from excessive sweating or trauma from items like q-tips or bobby pins and pen cap covers. This brings us to the old adage "nothing smaller than your elbow goes inside your ear".

Happy swimming!

Luna D. Bailey, MD