Ear-Nose and Throat Doctor (ENT) Questions Swimmer's Ear

Is there any remedy for swimmer’s ears?

I took a bath the other day and I think I have not dried my ears properly. I can now hear a humming sound in my ears and can feel the water inside. What can I do?

7 Answers

External otitis, also known as swimmer’s ear, is caused by retained water in the external canal. The ear canal needs to be dried if it takes in water. You can do this with a drop or two of alcohol (not if the drum is not intact), or using a hair dryer to blow warm air into the ear. If there is a lot of pain or discharge, there may be an infection so you may need to call your doctor.
Commonly, this may be due to retention of some external ear wax which trapped some water or other debris in the ear canal. Topical application of a "swimmers ear" solution of 1/2 rubbing alcohol and 1/2 vinegar may help. This dries the water from the ear canal and the vinegar helps to prevent infection. Other solutions to remove external ear canal wax can be found over the counter.
Swimmer's ear comes from too much moisture and increasing pH in the ear canal. After swimming or during high humidity, you can use an alcohol/acid solution to keep the pH low and the canal dry. This can minimize the chance of getting Swimmer's ear.
This is a very common experience and easily remedied in a safe manner – just use your hair blow dryer at a safe distance and within a few minutes, the small amount of water in the ear canal will evaporate. It feels like the ocean and yet it is less than 1 mL. Most importantly, don’t use alcohol to “dehydrate” the water as it is particularly toxic to the delicate skin that lines your ear canal, much like the cornea of the eye. In addition, to help prevent swimmers ear, it is worthwhile to immediately rinse your ears with clear, drinkable water on exiting the pool, ocean, or Jacuzzi. This will dilute any bacteria from the swimming water, but should be done immediately upon exiting (before you grab your towel). If you get any funny looks, just tell them you’re thirsty and see what they look like.
As long as you do not have a history of a perforation of the eardrum, you can make a mixture of 1/2 rubbing alcohol, 1/2 white vinegar and apply that to the ear with an eyedropper. Allow it to sit for about 10 seconds and then let it run out. The alcohol will help dry the moisture out of the ear and the vinegar helps to prevent infections.

Calhoun D. Cunningham III, M.D.
Boric acid or white vinegar can be used to clean the ears of water and debris. Use a medicine dropper and instill 4-5 drops of either in the ear and let it run out of the ear.
See an ENT for ear micro cleaning. There are no ear plugs which keep water completely out of the ear canals. Some use Doc's ProPlugs and swim cap. After water exposure, rinse ear canals by cupping ears in the shower (to remove surface chlorine). Towel dry. No q-tips. Get RX for Vosol ear drops from your PCP or ENT. Instill 2-3 drops in both ears 2-3 times a day for a week. Keep out of the pool for 2-3 weeks. Remedy is to quit swimming.