Otitis Externa (Swimmer's ear)

Otitis externa, or Swimmer’s Ear, is signified by the inflammation of the outer ear structures, including the ear canal and pinna. Typically caused by a bacterial infection or fungi, this condition commonly affects swimmers. The infection is most commonly a result of water becoming trapped in the ear canal. This may occur after bathing or showering, or from swimming. Swimmer’s Ear may cause the ear to itch or become red and inflamed, bringing a lot of pain with head movement or touching of the ear.

When water is trapped in the ear canal, bacteria in that area may multiply and lead to a more severe infection. Your ENT doctor will be able to assess the infection and determine whether or not antibiotics or other solutions are required.


Swimmer’s Ear is commonly caused by a germ called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.  It should be noted that Swimmer’s Ear typically affects children and young adults, and it is an extremely painful condition that should be treated by your ENT doctor as soon as possible. Swimmer’s Ear is spread through contaminated water that finds its way into the ear canal or placing objects that have been contaminated into the ear.


Mild to moderate pain is perhaps the most common symptom of Swimmer’s Ear and is often aggravated by tugging the outer ear. Please contact your ENT doctor if you are experiencing those symptoms or any of the following:

  • Sensation that the ear is blocked; a ‘full’ feeling
  • Drainage
  • Fever
  • Decreased hearing
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Intense pain that can be felt in the neck, face, or head
  • You notice the outer ear is pushed away from the skull


If caught at an early stage, treatment for Swimmer’s Ear will include an intricate cleaning of the ear canal by your ENT doctor . Eardrops that combat bacterial growth may also be prescribed, as well as a mild acid solution. More severe infections may be treated with antibiotics, as long as the eardrum has not been perforated. In some cases, your ear, nose, and throat doctor may prescribe pain medication. Follow-up appointments will be very important in order to adequately monitor the infection and effectiveness of the treatment methods.


There are a handful of things you can do to protect your ear against Swimmer’s Ear, including:

  • Dry your ears immediately following swimming
  • Avoid swimming in areas that have been closed because of pollution
  • Refrain from putting objects in the ear that are likely to scratch the ear