What is swimmer's ear (otitis externa)?
Swimmer's ear (also called otitis externa) is a type of ear infection. The infection occurs in the ear canal. Because the ear canal is dark, warm, and can hold water, it makes a perfect environment for water-loving bacteria and fungus to grow.
Why is this ear infection called "swimmer's ear"?
Otitis externa was given the nickname swimmer's ear because it most commonly affects individuals who spend a lot of time in water, such as swimmers.
What conditions cause swimmer's ear (otitis externa)?
Conditions that can lead to swimmer's ear include:
- Water that gets trapped in the ear canal, for example from swimming or showering often
- Loss of ear wax – a natural protectant – due to too much water entering the ear canal or removing too much wax when cleaning ears
- Injury to ear caused by putting objects into the ear, such as fingers, pen/pencils, paper clips, hair clips
- Swimming in polluted water
- Other skin conditions that affect the ear canal, such as eczema or psoriasis
What are the symptoms of swimmer's ear?
- Ear pain: pain that often gets worse when the outer ear is tugged or pressed on; pain can become intense and spread across the side of the face of the affected ear
- Itching inside the ear canal
- Bad-smelling or colored (yellow, yellow/green) pus oozing from the ear
- Blocked ear
- Redness and swelling in the outer ear
- Temporary hearing loss or decreased hearing
- Slight fever