Why Do Ears Hurt After Swimming? (Possible Reasons)


You just finished swimming and now you are feeling a sudden pain in your ears. You are not alone as many swimmers face the same issue. Why do your ears hurt after swimming? Should you be worried if it does?

The ears often hurt after swimming because of inflammation. It is caused by water getting into the ear canal that connects the eardrum to the external ears. Mostly common in children, acute otitis externa, a.k.a. swimmer’s ear, is not a contagious disease yet can be pretty painful.

The Reasons Why Ears Hurt After Swimming

Unclean water with visible debris and floating dirt is undoubtedly a bad choice to swim in. Swimming in this dirty water is also one of the most common reasons for ear infections. Here you’ll know some more significant reasons for ear pains.

Untreated Ear Injury

Other possible reasons for ear infections can be any injury sustained to the ear and left untreated. This can cause severe pain, especially after going through swimming. So, it’s strongly recommended to consult a doctor for further treatment in such cases.

Dryness Inside the Ear Canals

Dry, scaly skin on the inside of the ear canal is also a reason to promote irritation caused to the ear. Excessive accumulation of ear wax is one of the reasons for these issues. Moreover, ear plugs can also cause some ear wax to get stuck on the sides of the ear canal, which can also cause ear problems and infections.


Dry and Humid Weather Promotes Ear Infection

Living in dry, humid, and warm places also play a significant role in causing and promoting infections. Swimming or showering too long and not drying off your ears greatly increases bacterial growth and infection risk. Even worse, it can possibly promote temporary hearing loss.

Middle Ear Infection

Acute otitis media, also known as an infection caused to the middle ear, is commonly seen among children. Behind the eardrum, an air-filled space with tiny vibrating bones in the ear is where the middle ear is.

This infection (chronic otitis externa) tends to spread fast and can quickly intensify as chron. Significantly, among young children, middle ear infections can cause them to need drainage of fluid collecting on the inside.

That’s not all; Decreased hearing and increased risk can cause long-term suffering to them if not taken seriously. So, over time, pus draining may also be needed to be done along with a warm compress to reduce swelling.

However, external otitis or middle ear infection can cause more damage than expected in adults. Even a moist environment can cause a deteriorating skin condition, requiring you to consult your healthcare provider. In some cases, even hearing aids can also be needed due to temporary hearing loss.


Outer Ear Infection

Outer ear infections can be painful and can also increase over time. It can be remedied by mixing half part vinegar and rubbing alcohol. Gently dry off the ear and add a little at a time to the ear canals. Rubbing alcohol will mix with the water on the inside and eventually leave the ears dry, gradually healing your ear.

Untreated Infection Spreads

In rare cases, untreated infection can cause more widespread infection or skin conditions. To its extreme, infections may spread to tissues in the skull and membranes of the brain. It can also potentially elevate the chances of tearing eardrums if untreated.

Swimmer’s Ear Can Be a Prime Reason for Ear Pain

Causes and symptoms of a swimmer’s ear are prevalent. Water, dirt, excess wax, and even residual leftover from swabs in the canal can cause a swimmer’s ear. These are among a few factors that can cause ear pain even on the outer ear and may require ear drops to treat.

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Video Creator: Simply Swim

Reasons and Development for Swimmer’s Ear

Multiple factors cause a swimmer’s ear. Here in this section, we’ll let you know all the significant reasons for Swimmer’s Ear.

Dirt and Water Stuck in the Ear Canal


Dirty water, excessive ear wax, and the use of cotton swabs can cause changes on the inside of the middle ear. This can add moisture to the ear and promote bacterial infection. Exposure to water with higher bacteria levels can also cause a swimmer’s ear.

Excessive Ear Cleaning and Use of Hair Dyes or Sprays

A swimmer’s ear can be caused by excessive cleaning of the ear. As ear canals are pretty sensitive. So, too much picking can be a vital reason for this infection. Moreover, coming in contact with chemicals from hair spray or dyes can also promote the swimmer’s ear and elongate the overall healing process.

Too Much Itchy Ear

Itching of the ears on the inside, such as the ear tubes or on the deep layers, can be a symptom of a swimmer’s ear to look out for. Redness in the ear, increasing discomfort, and smelling of the ear are some of the most prominent and evident symptoms that need to be cared for.


Possible Treatment Options for Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear treatment in the initial stage is highly recommended. Once a swimmer’s ear develops, one must avoid swimming to prevent adding extra moisture to the ear canal. Below are the treatments that need to be followed up:

Antibiotic Ear Drops

Prescribed antibiotic ear drops with an acidic solution for the swimmer’s ear will help restore the antibacterial environment of the ear canal. Moreover, other professional health tips also need to be followed thoroughly.

Using Petroleum Jelly

Adding petroleum jelly in different directions of the ear, both inside and outside can indeed aid in preventing water from getting stuck in the canal. This method acts as a waterproofing layer that prevents your ear canal from staying damp for too long and can effectively treat swimmer’s ear.

Keeping the Ear Dry

You can also use a hair dryer to dry off excess moisture after swimming and prevent the swimmer’s ear. In this way, you can keep your inner nearby tissue and outer ear canal dry and prevent from developing a swimmer’s ear.

Ear Caring Tips for Your Ear Canal

Upon the clinical features and symptoms of swimmer’s ear, it is essential to begin treating it as soon as possible. The presence of water in the ear is an infection waiting to happen.


However, cleaning and caring for the canal is rather simple and mostly requires keeping the inside dry and free of water. Here are some of the experts’ tips that you need to follow:

Cotton Swabs

Using a cotton swab to clean the exterior of the ear is safe but can cause damage in the long run, such as hearing loss, middle ear infection, and popped eardrums.

Frequent use of it can cause pushing the natural wax deeper, leading to infections and increasingly severe pain. The natural wax is crucial as it traps dirt and also keeps your ear out of infections.

Ear Drainage

After swimming, at best, you can tip your head from one side to the other to shake off all the excess water present there. However, don’t add water to the inside of the canal to keep it clean or draw out whatever water may be left in. This can lead to severe middle ear infection and even result in swimmer’s ear.

Ear Buds

Headphones and buds promote pressure on the inside of the ears. Wearing these for long hours causes the ears to be clogged and build up more wax in a moist environment, which ultimately results in the same way for developed production of infection.


Use Ear Plugs and Bathing Cap

Carrying earplugs, a bathing cap, and a few different towels to dry your ears off thoroughly can go a long way to help you prevent ear infections. Ensure water doesn’t make its way down too far into your ear canal. Even if it does, dry it off as quickly as possible to avoid bacterial development.

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Video Creator: Andy Isom