Before you dive into the water to cool off this summer, make sure your ears are protected.
Dr. Lauren Placke, audiologist in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, said moisture buildup in the ear canal after swimming can lead to otitis externa, an infection commonly known as swimmer’s ear.
“This water creates a moist environment that encourages the growth of bacteria, which can cause an infection,” Placke said. “Symptoms can range from mild to severe and, if left untreated, the infection can cause swelling in the canal that is severe enough to potentially create a conductive hearing loss.”
While there are steps you can take to avoid swimmer’s ear, there are also devices to help prevent it.
Audiologists can take a custom impression of the external ear canal to create a swimmer’s plug to protect the outer and middle ear.
“The deep impression gives a 3D picture of the anatomy within the ear canal, allowing for a perfect fit,” she said.
The swimmer’s plugs can also be using during showers and other water activities, which can improve the quality of life for individuals with reoccurring middle ear issues.
She recommends that people with reoccurring issues external and middle ear issues seek medical intervention from an otolaryngologist prior to obtaining a custom swimmer’s plugs.
“The best treatment is medical intervention,” Placke said. “Custom swimmer’s plugs are only a preventative measure.”
–By Julia Parsons