Swimmer’s ear… it might not sound like a horrible thing, but the fact is that it can cause a lot of complications. In fact, swimmer’s ear can even lead to partial loss of hearing, and you don’t have to be a swimmer to experience it. Swimmer’s ear is nothing more than an infection, and an infection is never a good thing. An infection means that you’ve got bad bacteria somewhere, and having it in your ear can be devastating, especially if it leads to pain and loss of hearing. Swimmer’s ear is something laypeople call an outer ear canal infection. The symptoms of swimmer’s ear include pain, redness in the ear, difficulty hearing, and discharge of fluid from the ear, among others. However, these are only the mild symptoms you can experience from swimmer’s ear. The more severe symptoms of this medical condition include severe pain and redness, pus discharge from the ear, blockage causing loss of hearing, pain that radiates to the neck and head, and even swelling of lymph nodes. One very severe complication that can occur from swimmer’s ear can even be life-threatening. This is why it’s never good to take swimmer’s ear lightly. Another reason is the complications that can occur due to this infection.
The complications that can develop due to outer ear canal infections, also known as swimmer’s ear, are most often temporary. However, some complications can be permanent, and some can even be life-threatening. And, though life-threatening, fatal complications are rare when it comes to swimmer’s ear, just like any medical condition, it’s important to take the necessary steps to prevent developing it in the first place. Following is a list of the complications that can occur due to swimmer’s ear:
- Hearing loss. Swimmer’s ear often leads to temporary hearing loss that’s typically explained as a ‘muffled’ type of hearing, where sounds are difficult to make out, especially words. This complication typically is temporary, but it can become permanent, especially if you’re someone who experiences outer ear canal infections frequently. This temporary hearing loss usually clears up after the infection goes away.
- Chronic otitis externa. This is long-term, chronic infection of the outer ear that is recurring. Its signs and symptoms tend to become moderate and even to severe, especially the more a patient suffers from swimmer’s ear. Chronic infections are considered those that persist for more than a couple months. They are also considered chronic in those that experience them on a recurrent basis. These chronic infections tend to be more common in people who suffer rare strains of bacteria, or those who suffer from an allergic skin reaction. They can even occur in those who are allergic to antibiotic ear drops. These infections can also be a combination of bacterial and fungal.
- Cellulitis. This is a deep-tissue infection that occurs from swimmer’s ear that has spread into the connective tissues in the skin.
- Necrotizing otitis externa. This is the medical term given to bone and cartilage damage that can occur from outer ear canal infections that have spread, causing severe inflammation and even damage to skin, bone, and cartilage. This typically occurs more in those who suffer from swimmer’s ear and have an accompanying medical condition, such as diabetes. It also can occur be more prevalent in the elderly.
Don’t ever take swimmer’s ear lightly. If you’re someone who has experienced it once or twice, that’s usually all it takes to know how painful it can be. You may even have experienced a little muffling of your hearing from that infection. However, if you’re someone who experiences swimmer’s ear semi-regularly, it’s vital that you learn the complications that can develop from this infection, and it’s even more important that you talk to your healthcare professional about ways to prevent it from recurring. There are a number of options available to treat swimmer’s ear. There are also a number of preventive measures you can take to avoid experiencing outer ear canal infections in the future. Swim-ear drops are an effective means of not only treating swimmer’s ear, but preventing them from occurring in the first place. If you’re someone who develops swimmer’s ear infections, talk to your doctor about swim-ear drops and other treatment options available to you.