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Health

Guard against painful swimmer’s ear

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As the temperature climbs, refreshing pools and sparkling lakes beckon swimmers for an exhilarating plunge.  However, when some of that water stays trapped in the ear, it can encourage bacteria to grow and cause “swimmer’s ear.”

More than 2.4 million people each year seek relief from the pain and swelling of swimmer’s ear, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This bacterial ear infection is common in children who spend a lot of time in the water, especially in bacteria-ridden lakes.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) explains, “There are other ways to get swimmer’s ear, such as through a scratch on the tender skin of the ear from cleaning too vigorously with cotton swabs or fingernails.  People can also get swimmer’s ear from earplugs, headphones, or hearing aid ear molds – anything that keeps the ear canals closed and unventilated for extended periods of time.”

ASHA lists warning signs, including achiness inside the ear, redness, ear drainage, and pain when touching the ear.  When caught early, swimmer’s ear can be treated easily with eardrops.  However, once the infection progresses to the middle ear behind the eardrum, the doctor will need to prescribe antibiotics. 

To prevent swimmer’s ear, ASHA recommends keeping the ear canals dry, and carefully drying the ears after bathing or swimming.  “Tilt the head parallel to the ground and gently pull on the earlobe to straighten the ear canal and let the water drain.

“Children who are prone to swimmer’s ear or who swim regularly might benefit from custom swim plugs.  An audiologist can make and precisely fit a set of plugs to your child’s ears to block water.”

While some sufferers use homemade eardrops made from equal amounts of rubbing alcohol and vinegar to evaporate excess water in the ear, experts urge patients to seek medical help to avoid complications. 

For more information, contact Susan Rogan Hearing, (630) 969-1677 for the Westmont office, (708) 588-0155 for LaGrange Park, or visit www.susanroganhearing.com.