We’ve heard of tennis elbow and rugby ears but what is swimmer’s ear? 

Just as tennis and rugby aren’t necessarily the only cause (if at all) of these interestingly names ailments, swimmer’s ear is often caused by swimming – just not all the time. 

So what exactly is it?

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal – that part that runs from your eardrum to the outside of your ear. (Also known as otitis externa for the medically minded.) 

The infection can range from mild discomfort and itching to a complete blockage of your ear canal, fever and inflamed lymph nodes. 

As with the rest of the human body, the ear is a phenomenal design. Cerumen, a mildly acidic waxy secretion, lines the ear canal which protects it and wards off bacteria. So far, so good. 

However, swimmer’s ear comes about when our natural defences have been overcome and those pesky bacteria have conquered the city walls. Besides swimming (which allows for bacteria-infested water to sit inside the ear canal for a prolonged period) humid conditions, excessive sweating or over-enthusiastic cleaning with cotton tips all chip away at the ear’s natural resistance.  

How Can We Avoid Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimming in natural bodies of water such as lakes and rivers may pose a risk for some as they are untreated and, frankly, who knows what’s floating around in there? If your usual swimming pool is well treated and as clean as it’s going to get then just be sure to rinse your ears well in the shower with warm water which will flush out any residual pool water. 

Outside the pool, the best thing to do is to be careful with the inner ear and its protective layer. Sticking things in your ear canal, scratching or excessive use of earphones all serve to both damage the cerumen and promote the growth of bacteria.  

Enjoy the rest of your summer swimming season, and don’t forget that we are here to help you to maintain a clean and healthy swimming pool.