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Symptoms and Signs of Swimmer's Ear Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Natural Remedies, and Prevention

Doctor's Notes on Swimmer's Ear Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Natural Remedies, and Prevention

Swimmer’s ear (also termed otitis externa) is a painful condition of the outer portion of the ear and ear canal. Common signs and symptoms are ear pain or earache usually involving only one ear. Ear pain is increased when the ear is touched or pulled on or when the patient chews food. The ear may itch and the outer ear may be red. Severe swimmer’s ear may have symptoms of the ear draining pus or fluid or the ear canal may be swollen shut. In addition, the person may have trouble hearing and have ringing in the ear, dizziness and/or vertigo. Some patients may have a feeling of fullness in the ear, or in more severe cases pain that extends to the side of the face or neck and/or swollen lymph nodes.

The major cause of swimmer’s ear is a break in the skin that lines the outer ear or ear canal that allows bacteria or fungi to invade the outer ear or the ear canal’s covering. Breaks in the skin may be caused by scratching, skin conditions (for example, psoriasis) or objects inserted into the ear like swabs, earplugs, phone earbuds and/or hearing aids, for example.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.