Removing Water Safely From Your Ears
Swimming and summer go hand-in-hand, and both are practically intertwined as a part of being Australian. At Attune, we know everyone loves dipping into the pool to cool down, but we don’t love having water trapped in our ears. No one wants to forgo swimming, so we’ve collected a variety of valuable tips and tricks to remove water from your ears safely.
With these tips, you’ll no longer have to sit with an uncomfortable full feeling in your ears or tolerate muffled hearing. But, regardless of whether you take these tips on board, you don’t want to leave water sitting in your ears as your risk for developing an ear infection will increase. So, in today’s article, we’ll be covering how water gets trapped in your ears, as well as the preventive steps and safe solutions to remove it.
How Water Gets Trapped in Your Ears
During any activity involving water, there’s a chance it’ll get trapped in your ears—swimming in the pool, ocean or surfing, or even taking a shower. If you have some earwax in your ear canal, the water can mix with the wax and get stuck behind it, creating a challenging environment for the water to drain naturally. As we’re all different, some people are born with slightly more narrow ear canals, so if you experience frequent ear blocks, this might be why.
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 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. In addition, if the water does not drain by itself and sits in the ear canal, an infection can occur.
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. For example, 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 often require antibiotics, while fungal infections may require anti-fungal medication.
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. However, there are many reasons why blockages can occur. 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.
How to Safely Remove Water From the Ears
The ear is delicate, and any damage can result in hearing loss. Therefore, it is essential to remove water from your ears and 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 severe complications. Using a cotton bud can worsen the situation by pushing any wax present further down the ear canal. As a result, 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 quickly.
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 gently tug on the ear lobe, 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.
Preventing Water From Getting Trapped in Your Ears
You can do many things to prevent water from entering or getting trapped in your ears. But, especially if you are a regular swimmer, often get water trapped in your ears in the shower, 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 swimming. 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 specific properties which leave a waterproof coating in the canal. This limits the risk of otitis externa or swimmers’ ear due to water being stuck in the canal.
- You can also wear a swim cap while swimming or a shower cap while in the shower. These caps can 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 earwax if you have narrow ear canals or bony growths in the canals.
A bacterial or fungal infection can result if this water does not drain. 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, Attune is your local audiology clinic here to help. Simply call us on 1300 736 702, or book online at your earliest convenience.