Swimmer's ear is caused by water removing the cerumen (wax) from the ear. This damages the lining of the canal and taking bacteria into the skin where it causes infection. The wax and squamous epithelium lining the canal usually protect the underlying dermis. It blocks bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus.
In the early stages the ears become sore and itchy. People often scratch them with a cotton bud or pen lid but this damages the skin further, worsening and prolonging infection. Don't!
Other causes include eczema and psoriasis. If you have skin condition underlying the problem seek help from a medical professional in order to treat the problem.
Prevention is through avoiding the risk factors. Keep out of the water, wash out your ears using water or alcohol and use swimming ear plugs to keep water from your ears.
Custom swimming ear plugs are much better than other types. This is because they are individually made for your ears so are comfortable and effective at keeping water out. ZenPlugs are exceptionally good. This is because they include an antibacterial which is proven to kill all the bacteria which cause ear infection.
Treat yourself to years of healthy ears with ZenPlugs Molded Swimming Ear Plugs from http://zenplugs.com.
What Is Earwax?
Earwax, also known as cerumen, is an oily waxy substance made by sebaceous glands in the ear canal. These glands are modified sweat glands which, instead of producing sweat, produce a fatty substance. The role of ear wax in the ear is to keep it clean by trapping debris on its sticky surface and transporting it to the outside of the ear. Here it can easily be removed with a finger or cotton bud. The cells of the squamous epithelium, or skin, lining the eardrum and ear canal are formed at the eardrum end, also known as the medial end of the ear canal. From here they migrate laterally along the canal towards the outside, carrying the earwax with it. This transports debris and dirt from the ear canal to the outside for removal.
This process is disturbed by the insertion of earbuds and other objects into the ear canal which breaks down the ears' self cleaning process and can result in blockage of the canal with debris. A bud can push dead skin and other material further down and cause more of a problem than it solves. The buildup of debris can lead to reduced and muffled hearing, a type of conductive deafness. The debris can also become waterlogged resulting in a otitis externa, also known as swimmers' ear. This manifests as itching and soreness in the early stages, progressing to pain, severely reduced hearing, discharge and bleeding later on.
Excessive earwax and debris accumulating in the ear canal may need to be removed through suction by an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist. Syringing is not generally advised as it can cause damage to the tympanic membrane, also known as the eardrum. Permanent tinnitus is a recognised side effect of syringing the ears.
Earwax also protects the delicate skin lining the ear from penetration by water. Repeated immersion, particularly in dirty seawater or chlorinated water can break down the protective waxy layer and allowed the underlying epithelium to become waterlogged. This allows bacteria to penetrates and colonise the skin causing infection. The irritated skin becomes inflamed and sore and can be worsened by dirty fingers, sharp fingernails and pen lids being inserted into the ear canal. These cause trauma and damage to the fragile skin, worsening and prolonging infection. It is imperative to seek the advice of a medical practitioner in order to start treatment as early as possible to prevent the problem progressing and becoming serious.