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Ear Infections in Summer: What You Can Do to Protect Your Hearing Health

‘Hot Weather Ear’: Why Does It Occur and Who Does It Affect?

Otitis externa, a condition which you may also have heard of as ‘hot weather ear’ or ‘swimmer’s ear’, is an infection which occurs in the external ear due to exposure to hot weather and humidity. It is especially common amongst swimmers and is caused by moisture in the ear canal which, if not properly dried, becomes a breeding environment for bacteria. However, you don’t necessarily have to be a swimmer to get swimmer’s ear as the condition is quite common amongst adults overall: approximately one in ten people will have it at least once in their lives. A lot of those affected don’t even go into the water: the infection can be caused by any moisture, sand or debris that gets into the ear canal and remains there.

What Are the Symptoms?

Swimmer’s ear can have severely unpleasant symptoms. In around 1 in 3 people, those are so intense that it affects the impacted individuals’ day-to-day lives. The symptoms can include the following:

  • Intense pain (especially upon touching or pulling on your earlobe)
  • Itching
  • Skin in the ear canal appearing red and swollen
  • Skin flakes being shed from the ear
  • Liquid discharge
  • Impaired hearing

What Complications Can Occur?

Although not very common, otitis externa complications can be very serious. Narrowing of the ear canal might occur, which is caused by thick, dry skin building up in the canal, thus blocking it and potentially causing impaired hearing. Another possible complication involves the eardrum becoming inflamed or perforated. This happens in cases where the infection spreads to the eardrum, causing pus to build up inside the inner ear. If this condition does not heal on its own, surgery might be required. Perhaps the most serious, but rare complication is one by the name of ‘necrotizing otitis externa’.  It occurs when the infection spreads to the bone that surrounds the ear canal and without treatment, this condition can become fatal.

Preventing Otitis Externa

Of course, there are certain measures that you can take to prevent swimmer’s ear from occurring while still enjoying your summer and all the fun activities it involves. Those include the following:

  • Do your best not to let water or soap get into your ears while you shower or bathe; a good idea might be to wear a shower cap
  • When swimming, wear a swimming hat that covers your ears; ear plugs are another option
  • If you think the water might be polluted, do not swim in it
  • After exiting the water, turn your head from side to side to help any leftover water drain from your ears
  • Make sure to dry your ears as well as possible after swimming, showering, or bathing; use a hairdryer on a low setting and do not insert any items inside your ears (e.g., the corner of a towel)

Using Protective Products

Using suitable protective products is a great step you can take to ensure effective prevention of otitis externa. Earplugs are a brilliant example- pop them in your ears to prevent water from entering the canal whilst still enjoying full audibility of all ambient sounds. Special antibacterial sprays can also be a great prevention tool as they create a water-resistant barrier and prevent incidences of water getting trapped in the ear.

Are you looking for the most effective way to prevent swimmer’s ear this summer? Have a look at the ear protection products that we offer over at our Hearing Aid Accessories website! Find the one that suits you best and enjoy all of your favourite hot-weather activities without having to worry about getting an infection!