Q: What exactly is “swimmer’s ear”?
A: The medical term for “swimmer’s ear” is “acute otitis externa”. It’s an infection in the outer ear canal – between the ear drum and the outside of your head. And you don’t have to be a swimmer to get it. It’s often called swimmer’s ear, because it sometimes occurs after swimming. It’s not that the water necessarily causes the infection, but the moist area provides a nice breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria can grow in a dry ear as well. The infection causes itchiness and pain, and is usually treated with prescription ear drops. It can also be caused by scratching the skin of the ear canal (with a cotton swab, bobby pin, key, etc.). This is one reason we remind people the only thing you’re allowed to put in your ear is your elbow.
Answered by Dr. Matt Perry, Au.D. – audiologist and owner of Harmony Hearing & Audiology, located in Festival at Bel Air, 5 Bel Air S Pkwy, Ste. 1411, Bel Air, MD 21015 – (410)569-5999