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Keep ears dry to keep out swimmer’s ear

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Memorial Day heralded the opening of many community pools, which means the season of outdoor water fun and water woes officially begins. Protect your ears this year to avoid the achy infection of swimmer’s ear. Experts explain that excessive moisture trapped in the ear canal can irritate and break down the skin, allowing bacteria or fungi to penetrate and grow.

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, a 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, especially in bacteria-ridden lakes. “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.

Susan Rogan Hearing : 319 W. Ogden Avenue, Westmont, IL 60559 : 630.969.1677; and 419 N. La Grange Road, La Grange Park, IL 60526 : 708.588.0155 : www.susanroganhearing.com.