What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Swimmers ear, also known as acute otitis externa, is a painful condition resulting from inflammation, irritation, or infection. These symptoms occur after water gets trapped in the ear, which allows for the spread of bacterial or fungal organisms. Because this condition is common among swimmers, it is known as swimmers ear.

Most common among children, although it affects adults as well, swimmers ear results in 2.4 million healthcare visits in the United States each year.

How can you get swimmer’s ear?

If you or your child has ever experienced the intense pain, itching, or temporary hearing loss that can result from swimmers ear, you know that addressing the symptoms quickly is essential. While a day at the pool or beach can lead to water in the ear, so can simple activities such as bathing or relaxing in a hot tub. Trapped water creates a breeding ground for germs that can lead to swimmers ear infection, which can lead to a visit to the doctor. The best line of defense is to keep the ears dry, and seek quick treatment to remove water from the ear.

If treated quickly, water trapped in the ear has less of a chance of leading to the uncomfortable symptoms associated with swimmers ear.

What causes swimmer’s ear?

When trapped water in the ear is present for long periods of time, it creates the ideal environment for germs to grow. Pool and sea water contain pollutants and bacteria, but any water that is left in the ear canal for too long can cause swimmers ear, a condition which could lead to an infection and require antibiotic treatment by a doctor. Even simple activities like bathing, showering, or washing hair can cause water to become trapped in the ear.

What to Look For

Learn the most common symptoms associated with swimmer’s ear.

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

Learn the steps you can take to help avoid it.

Addressing Water in Ear

Water in the ear hurts and can lead to swimmer’s ear so it must be addressed quickly.


“Most people think of swimmer’s ear as a mild condition that quickly goes away, but this common infection is responsible for millions of illnesses and substantial medical costs each year. By taking simple steps before and after swimming or coming in contact with water, people can greatly reduce their risk of this painful infection.”