Dear Doctor: What is “Swimmer’s Ear” and How Can I Prevent It?

ENT physician looking into patient's ear with an instrument
ENT physician looking into patient’s ear with an instrument

Swimmer’s ear or Otitis Externa is an acute infection and inflammation of the ear canal. Patients with Otitis Externa typically are presented with an acute ear pain with or without discharge or decreased hearing. Bacterial infections are the most common cause of Otitis Externa. Additional causes include idiopathic, swimming, earwax buildup, trauma, chemical irritants, fungal infection and others.

The treatment is directed towards the cause of Otitis Externa and it is usually treated with 7 to 10 days of topical antibiotics prescribed by a physician.

There are a few simple things that can be done to reduce the risk of getting Otitis Externa. Consider wearing occlusive earplugs when swimming. For those patients who have recurrent cerumen impaction or buildup of ear wax, removal of earwax regularly by a physician is highly recommended. Avoid using the common ear cotton-tipped swabs for ear cleaning since they may cause irritation of the ear canal and potential risk for Otitis Externa.

Dr. Behrooz Saffari is a Family Medicine Physician for the UT Health Science Center at Houston and provides patient care at UT Physicians at Cinco Ranch located at 23923 Cinco Ranch Blvd., Katy, TX 77494. To schedule an appointment, please call 713-486-5300.