4 Ways to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear can be a painful experience if left untreated. That said, there are steps you can take to help prevent swimmer’s ear. Here are 4 ways to help you prevent swimmer’s ear.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or health care professional. This guide is meant only to inform and act as a broad guideline. It’s not medical advice or law, and shouldn’t be interpreted as such. If you think you have swimmer’s ear or want more information on it, please consult your doctor.

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What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is an infection in the ear canal. It’s caused, typically, by water that stays in the outer ear canal and allows bacteria to grow. 

Related article: What is Swimmer’s Ear?

If left untreated, it can become painful and can lead to a more serious issue.

And despite its name, you don’t have to be a swimmer to get it! 

Who Can Get Swimmer’s Ear?

While younger children tend to get swimmer’s ear more than other ages, anyone can suffer from it. Yes, that means adults and teens, too! 

And don’t let the name fool you. It’s not just swimmers who can get this infection. Even if you’re splashing around in the pool, at the beach, or the lake, you can get otitis externa.  You can also get it just from showering or taking a bath. 

How Can I Prevent Swimmer’s Ear?

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or health care provider. Check with your health care provider to see which suggestions are the best option for you. Ear drops and other suggestions shouldn’t be used if you have ear tubes, ruptured eardrums, or other ear issues.

While you can take steps to help prevent swimmer’s ear, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll never get it. These are only preventative measures to lessen the risk of getting it.

Some individuals may find themselves more prone to swimmer’s ear than others. For those that do, you’ll want to make sure that you’re taking extra steps to help keep the infection at bay.

1. Ear Drops

To help prevent swimmer’s ear, use ear drops that are specifically for drying out ears. These are typically a mix that contains rubbing alcohol to help dry out the water. 

You can buy ear drops for swimmers at most stores. However, depending on where you live, it might be easier to find them in the summer months. If you plan to swim year-round, make sure you stock up in the summer, just in case.

Use these drops whenever you submerge your head in the water. Whether that’s the pool, a shower or bath, or just playing in the rain. 🙂

After you get out of the water, put a few drops in each ear. Rub behind the ear (near the base) to help disperse the drops better.

As an alternative, you can make your own ear drying mixture with rubbing alcohol and white vinegar.  

2. Use Ear Plugs 

Want an additional option to prevent swimmer’s ear? Consider some earplugs.

Much like the ear drops, you’ll need earplugs specific to swimming. The regular foam earplugs that you use to reduce noise won’t stay in and aren’t the best at keeping out the water.

There are three styles of earplugs specific to swimming that you should consider.

  1. Moldable: These look a little like wax, but they’re actually made of a silicone material. It’s applied directly to the outer ear and is molded to form a comfortable and waterproof seal. 
  2. Flanged: Flanged earplugs look like traditional earplugs you’d use outside of swimming. They have flared ridges at the top, which help prevent water from entering the ear. And a small grip to help with inserting and removing.
  3. Ergonomic: Designed very similar to the flanged earplugs, but they have a tighter fit. They sit more snugly in the ear and they designed specifically for each ear for a better fit.

If none of these options work, you can try to get custom made earplugs. However, know that this is an expensive route and isn’t guaranteed to work. It’s also worth noting that while earplugs can help keep water out of the ear, they’re not always 100% waterproof. 

Earplugs also run the risk of falling out while you swim or play around in the pool. To help prevent this, we recommend wearing a swim cap or an ear band to hold them in place.

3. Wear a Swim Cap or Ear Band

A swim cap or ear band alone won’t keep the water from your ear but it can help keep some out. 

If you decide to wear one, make sure your cap covers your ears all the way. Or look into getting a cap that specifically has a mold for the ear. Such as this cap from Lahtak.

Related article: 6 Reasons Why You Should Wear a Swim Cap

Just remember that even with a swim cap and/or ear band, you may still find that you get water in your ear. Wearing earplugs as a back up can help minimize the amount of water in your ear.

4. Dry out your Ear 

Another way to help prevent swimmer’s ear is to dry out your ear. While this sounds simple in theory, it’s not always as easy. Some methods, such as drying out your ears with a towel or q-tip can push the water back further. And you run the risk of damaging your ear.

Try drying out your ear with some of these suggestions:

Shake Your Head

Yes, it sounds a bit funny, but sometimes this works. Tilt your head to the side and pull up on your ear. Shake your head down towards the ground to get the water out of your ear. 

At times, you can feel the water leave your ear, and other times, you won’t feel a thing.

Hairdryer

Put your hairdryer on the lowest and coolest setting and hold it about a foot or so from your ear. Direct the air into your ear and take care that it’s not going directly into your ear. 

I’m not a fan of this method, if only because it’s loud against your ear and you can burn your ear if you’re not careful. If you try this method, please ensure that the hairdryer isn’t too close or hot that you hurt yourself.

Warm Towel

Another method that some people use is to rest their ear on a hot towel. The thought is that the heat will evaporate the remaining water in the ear and help dry it out. Again, take care that the towel or heating pack isn’t overly hot. 

Much like the hairdryer, I haven’t had luck with this method. Plus, I get concerned that the heat will just create more moisture from any steam. But I know a few people who say it works for them. 

Ear drops

It was mentioned earlier but it’s worth mentioning again. Swimming eardrops designed to dry out the ear is a good way to dry out your ear. Again, you can use the brand that you like the best, make your own, or even use a natural remedy, if you’d like.

Between the four options listed above to dry out your ear, this option tends to produce the best results.

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Bonus Content:

Swimming Basics to Get You Started: If you just started to swim, you might feel that swimming can be overwhelming. Here are some swimming basics to help you feel more comfortable at the pool.

Swimming on Your Period (And Why You Should): Whether you’re a competitive or leisure swimmer, it’s perfectly fine to swim during your period. Here are 8 tips to help you while swimming on your period.

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