Swimmer’s Ear

What is Swimmer's Ear?

Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer’s ear is a colloquial term used to refer to an infection of the outer ear canal.

Most recurrent outer ear infections are bacterial in origin. If fluid is retained in the ear canal, it provides an ideal incubation medium for any of the commensal organisms in the ear canal or any additional bacteria that are introduced from the water in which an individual swam. The ear canals become filled with protein rich fluid at 37 degrees centigrade, which is in fact the ideal culture medium for growing bacteria.

Swimmer's Ear Symptoms

Patients experience ear blockage, ear pain, decreased hearing acuity, plus or minus discharge from the ear.

Swimmer's Ear Treatment

The appropriate first line treatment is to clean the ear canal out, to remove the protein rich fluid, hence limiting the culture medium in which the bacteria grow.

In the absence of any local complications, such as the infection having spread from the ear canal to the skin and cartilage around the ear, appropriate first line treatment involves the use of antibiotic eardrops.

Before antibiotic eardrops are commenced, it is important to make an assessment of the integrity of the eardrums. If there is a hole in the eardrum, it is important to remain mindful of the fact that many antibiotic eardrops are potential ototoxic, which means that if they get through the hole in the eardrum, and from the middle ear diffuse into the Inner ear, they can damage nerve endings and cause hearing loss.

Of the currently available eardrops, Ciprofloxacin, is probably the one most appropriately used to treat outer ear infections in the presence of a hole in the eardrum.

Fungal outer ear infections can occur in swimmers, they occur less frequently than bacterial outer ear infections, they tend to be more recalcitrant. Basic principles of treatment are the same and rather than using a bactericidal eardrop an appropriate fungicidal eardrop is the first line of treatment.

At Havas ENT Clinics, we are familiar with these kinds of ear problems. If you doubt that you have swimmer's ear, please contact one of friendly clinic staffs to arrange an appointment with Professor Thomas Havas. We are happy to help!