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 (otitis externa)?
- Ear pain: pain that often gets worse when the outer ear is tugged or pressed on; pain can become intense and spread across side of 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.