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How to Safely Remove Water From Your Ears

swimming man

Whilst splashing around in the pool is a great way to beat the heat and is good fun for both kids and adults, having water trapped inside your ears is less so. We’ve collected useful tips on safely removing water from your ears, so you can get back to enjoying the summer sun sooner.

Water stuck in your ears can leave an uncomfortable feeling of fullness and affect your hearing. If you do nothing about it and the water stays trapped in the ear, you may even risk getting an infection.

Let’s take a look at how water gets trapped and how you can prevent infections by safely removing water from your ears.

How does water get trapped in your ears?

Water may get trapped in your ears during any kind of activity that involves water: from taking a shower to swimming in the ocean or surfing. If you have even just a little bit of wax in your ear canals, the water can mix in with the wax or get stuck behind it, making it very hard to drain. Some people simply have narrow ear canals. When the ear canals are too narrow, water is more likely to become trapped.

Swimmers are prone to have water stuck inside their ears. Due to repeated temperature changes, they may develop bony growths in the ear canal (also called exostoses). Depending on how large the bone growths are, water and wax can become trapped behind them, making it even harder to drain water from the ears. 

Having water trapped in your ears can be quite uncomfortable. Your ears may feel as if they are clogged or blocked up. At times, you may feel the water sloshing around. Depending on the amount of water trapped, it may also be painful and in some cases can affect your hearing. If the water does not drain by itself and sits in the ear canal, an infection can occur.

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Otitis externa or swimmers’ ear

When water is trapped inside the ear canal, you’re at an increased risk of suffering from an ear infection. This type of infection is called otitis externa or swimmers’ ear. It is called swimmers’ ear as it is common in people who swim as they spend a lot of time in the water. 

The ear canal is a very small space and under warm and wet conditions bacteria and fungi can grow and spread, leading to infection. With otitis externa or swimmers’ ear, the ear canal becomes inflamed and infected. 

The infection may be either bacterial or fungal in nature. The type of treatment required varies depending on the type of infection (bacterial or viral). Bacterial infections will often require antibiotics, while fungal infections may require anti-fungal medication.

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Signs you may suffer from swimmer’s ear

Here are some of the symptoms you may experience when you have an ear infection caused by water that’s trapped in your ear – also known as otitis externa or swimmers’ ear. Look out for:

  • Pain in the ear and ear canal
  • Redness in the ear canal
  • Itchiness in the ear
  • Discomfort in the ear
  • Swelling in the ear canal
  • Bad odour coming from the ear
  • Liquid discharge from the ear
  • Muffled hearing
  • Blocked feeling in the ears

If you constantly experience blocked ears but suspect that water has nothing to do with it, you could be right. There are many reasons why blockages can occur, and since they’re always quite uncomfortable and not seldom a risk to your hearing health, you should not hesitate to book an appointment with a trusted Audiologist.

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How to safely remove water from the ears

The ear is delicate and any damage can result in hearing loss. Therefore, it is important to remove water from your ears and to do so safely, to avoid any damage. 

Note: People often use cotton buds as they are quick and easy. This is a huge no-no. You should NOT do this as there is a risk of damaging the eardrum or the skin lining the ear canal. 

Delicate structures beyond the eardrum can also be damaged, leading to more serious complications. Using a cotton bud can make the situation worse by pushing any wax present further down the ear canal. There, it can become trapped and may need to be removed by a doctor or specialist. 

Never use a cotton bud in your ears no matter how careful you think you are, as accidents can happen easily.

How to safely remove water from your ears: 

  • Use a towel to mop out any water at the entry of the ear canal.
  • Lie on the ear and allow the water to drain out.
  • Tilt your head to one side and tug on the ear lobe gently and gravity will help the water drain.
  • Tilt your head to one side and place your hand over your ear. The suction will help draw out the liquid.
  • Use swimming ear drops. The alcohol in them can dry it up. Do not use it if you have an infection, grommets or a hole in your eardrum.

If you still cannot remove water stuck in your ears, see your GP or an ear, nose and throat specialist.

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Preventing water from getting trapped in your ears

There are many things you can do to prevent water from entering or getting trapped in your ears. Especially if you are a regular swimmer, often get water trapped in your ears in the shower, or have middle ear problems and need to keep your ears dry. 

  • Silicone earplugs can be inserted before entering the water, e.g. before taking a shower or a swim. They perfectly fit into the ear canal and block any water from entering the ears, keeping them dry. This will prevent water from becoming trapped in the ears and infections from occurring. If you swim quite a lot, you can get custom made earplugs.
  • Use ear drops that prevent water from becoming trapped in the ears. You will need to place the eardrops in the ear canal before entering the water. The eardrops have certain properties which leave a waterproof coating in the canal. This limits the risk of otitis externa or swimmers’ ear as a result of water being stuck in the canal. 
  • You can also wear a swim cap while you are swimming or a shower cap while in the shower. These caps can be used to cover the ears and prevent water from entering.

In a nutshell

Showering or swimming can sometimes cause water to become trapped in the ears. Water can get trapped more easily when there is wax in the ear canals, when you have narrow ear canals, or when you have bony growths in the canals. 

If this water does not drain, a bacterial or fungal infection can result. Symptoms of infection include pain, itchiness, and discomfort. There are many ways to remove water safely from the ears, however, if unsuccessful you should not hesitate to visit an ear, nose and throat specialist.

You can also use earplugs or caps to prevent water from entering the ears. If you are interested in custom made earplugs for swimming or would like more information on ear blockages and hearing loss, visit your local audiology clinic today.

Enquire now