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Do You Love Swimming? 3 Top Tips to Protect Your Ears

Do you have a passion for wild swimming? Or maybe you prefer the meditative effect of swimming lengths in a local pool? 

Whatever you enjoy, experts agree that swimming is a great form of exercise and has proven benefits when it comes to wellbeing. However, if you’re spending a lot of time in the water, Swimmer’s Ear - an infection of the outer ear - can sometimes be a problem. We take a look at what it is and discuss three ways you can help protect your ear health. 


What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s Ear is another name for Otitis Externa - a common infection of the ear canal. It is caused by water entering the ear and creating a warm, moist environment for bacteria or fungi to flourish. Swimming is not the only cause - showering or frequent cleaning can also leave your ears prone to infection. 


What are the symptoms of Swimmer's Ear?

Although Swimmer’s Ear is not usually serious, it can be uncomfortable. Your ears might feel itchy and become red and swollen. Some people may feel like their ears are blocked or experience pain. Other symptoms include: 

  • A mucous discharge from the ear
  • Muffled hearing 
  • Temperature or sickness 


Consultant Ear Nose and Throat specialist, Ms Romana Kuchai says: “If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to stay out of the water.” She adds:  “Swimmer’s Ear will usually heal without treatment, but if your symptoms haven’t cleared up in a few days, it’s a good idea to see a doctor who can prescribe some antibiotic ear drops.” 

Wear a swimming cap and ear plugs

The key to protecting your ears is to keep them as dry as possible. So always wear a swimming cap, and make sure you have ear plugs that fit you properly. Most swimming experts recommend silicone or conical ear plugs, over foam ones, which are designed to keep out sound. 


Wild swimming: check the water is safe

If you’re swimming in rivers or the sea, make sure you aren’t in polluted water. Recent news stories have highlighted the problem of sewage being emptied into our rivers and seas, especially after heavy rainfall, which can increase the risk of harmful bacteria entering your ears. 

The Outdoor Swimming Society recommends checking the Rivers Trust website, which tracks sewage discharge into rivers. You can also find out how clean the water is on beaches and in other popular bathing areas through The Environment Agency website. 


Dry your ears properly

Once you’ve finished swimming it’s always good to make sure your ears are completely dry. After towel drying, tilt your head from side to side to allow the water to drain from the ear canal. And finally, give your earlobes a gentle tug in different directions - to make sure you’ve got rid of any excess  water.


Visit our clinic

If you are worried about your ear health and would like to speak to one of our Consultant Ear Nose and Throat specialists please call 020 7244 4200 or make an appointment online.