Keep Your Ears Healthy This Summer


For most people, summertime means it’s time to swim in pools, ponds, lakes, and the ocean. While most of us can enjoy these activities without any problems, some people must deal with what is known as swimmer’s ear, an inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear and ear canal.

Swimmer’s ear is common, especially among teenagers and young adults, and is occasionally associated with middle ear infections or colds. The problem can be caused by swimming in polluted water or when water becomes trapped in the ear canal, leading to bacteria growth. Here are some tips for preventing swimmer’s ear:

  • Consider wearing ear plugs when swimming
  • Dry your ears with a towel or hair dryer on a low setting after swimming
  • Use isopropyl alcohol-based eardrops – or a 1-to-1 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar (as long as ear tubes are not present) – to clear water from the ears
  • Do not use cotton swabs to clean ears, which can scratch the ear canal and create a potential site for infection
  • Do not use hydrogen peroxide in the ear

Symptoms of swimmer’s ear can include ear pain, hearing loss, itching of the ear or ear canal, and drainage from the ear that is yellow, yellow-green, pus-like, or foul smelling. More complicated ear infections can lead to a rupture in the eardrum, which may require medical intervention and, in extreme cases, surgery.

Ear infections can also be caused by an infection in the tonsils, such as strep throat. Individuals who experience repeated or persistent infections of the tonsils or adenoids that interfere with daily life are likely candidates for a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (removal of the tonsils and adenoids).

This type of surgery is also known as T&A surgery. The procedure is recommended for individuals who are suffering from these symptoms or are experiencing serious complications such as enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids that cause severe sleep problems, sleep apnea, dental abnormalities, and difficulty swallowing.

Contact an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) surgeon at Methodist Hospital for Surgery to learn about treatment options for swimmer’s ear and other conditions affecting the ear, nose, and throat.

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