Many swimmers know it might be a good idea to protect their ears while they are in the water. But there are also many people who are unaware of the risks until they get affected.
No matter whether you swim in open water or in a pool, there is bacteria in the water. The skin within the ear is very sensible and can easily get infected. Ear infections, also called Swimmer’s Ear or Otitis, can be really painful, make you feel ill and even make you temporarily deaf. Swimmer’s ear can generate a bad smell and it doesn’t look pretty. Any contact with water can make the infection worse. Medical treatment such as ear drops is usually necessary. Early treatment helps prevent complications and development of a more serious infection.
If you swim in open water that is below 17.5 degrees Celsius (63.5 Fahrenheit), infections are not the only risk. When the bones within the ear get exposed to cold water or wind, the bones grow. This abnormal bone growth, or exostosis which is greek for ”new bone”, is usually referred to as surfer’s ear, but can just as well happen to swimmers. The colder the water is the faster the bones grow, whereby exostosis is more common in cold water areas.
Exostosis can be removed with surgery, where the extra bones are removed. The surgery will keep you out of the water for weeks, and it is not without risks. If it goes bad it can lead to complications such as the paralysis of the facial nerve, an ear drum perforation, or damage to the joint of the jaw. If you aren't sensitive, you can watch a surgery here.
As the bones grow the ear canal gets narrower, and the ears get worse at drying after being in the water. If you notice that your ears are being blocked by water for a longer time than usual, that can be a warning sign that you have exostosis. As the water stays in the ear for a longer time, there is also a high risk for irritations and development of infections, whereby recurring ear infections also might be a sign of exostosis. If there is irritation, it starts to ache, and if an ear infection develops, the aching usually gets worse.
Preventing infections and exostosis with ear plugs is definitely a good idea. With SwimEars™ you can protect your ears without affecting your hearing. Less hassle, fewer visits to the doctor and more time in the water!