Otitis Externa: Symptoms, Causes, Cure & Prevention

In our previous post, we talked about otitis media, a type of infection in the middle ear and one of the major causes of hearing loss. Today, we are going to discuss about otitis externa, another type of ear infection and another reason that causes hearing loss. Everything you need to know about swimmer’s ear will be tackled in this article, including the causes, treatments, symptoms, and some practical ways to reduce the chances of developing such condition.

Read about our previous article about otitis media.


Otitis externa is an inflammation in the ear canal, the bridge that connects the ear drums to the external part of the whole organ. This condition can either be acute or chronic. The following details the difference between these two.

  • Acute otitis externa: inflammation in the ear canal that lasts from days up to 6 weeks
  • Chronic otitis externa: inflammation in the ear canal that lasts beyond 6 weeks


Here are some signs and symptoms that may tell if you have an inflammation in your ear canal.

  • Pain in the affected ear
  • Itching and irritation somewhere around the ear canal
  • Redness and swelling of the outer ear or ear canal
  • Fullness in the affected ear
  • Scaling or peeling of skin around the ear canal
  • Watery or pus-like discharge from the affected ear
  • Ear or jaw movements feel tender
  • Swollen throat glands
  • Hearing loss


There are several reasons why inflammation in the ear canal occur. Take note of the following causes of otitis externa.

As the name suggests, swimmer’s ear is commonly caused by swimming or bathing, especially in dirty or chlorinated water. This is why professional swimmers or those whose jobs require a regular exposure to water are more prone to developing external ear infection.

Excessive moisture can trigger inflammation in the ear as well. This can be developed through exposure to humid environment or when there’s water trapped in the ear after showering. But while this condition can happen upon too much exposure to polluted water, it is worthy of noting that too much dryness of the ear canal can also result to inflammation.

Infections such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus can also trigger otitis media. In the same way that skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, and allergic conditions such as rhinitis and asthma heightens the risk of developing inflammation in the ear canal.


When treating otitis externa, the main goal is to cure the infection, relieve the pain, and prevent its recurrence.

Your healthcare professional will most likely prescribe an ear drop, which you will be applying a few number of times per day. Depending on the severity and effect of otitis externa in your ear, your consultant may advise using antibiotic ear drop, antifungal ear drop, acidic ear drop to kill bacteria, or corticosteroid ear drop to reduce swelling if any.

For severe cases, painkillers may be prescribed or antibiotic tablets should ear drops don’t work. If there’s a pus or boil that was developed, your consultant may suggest to carry out an incision and drainage. Also, if you have an underlying condition, your healthcare professional may decide that curing it is the best way to prevent recurrence of otitis externa.


There’s no such way to avoid developing otitis externa completely. However, we know some practical ways to reduce the risk of getting your ear canals inflamed.

  • Avoid using sharp tools to clean your earwax, as this may cause damage to your ear canal.
  • Avoid getting water or soap into your ears.
  • Don’t bathe or swim in dirty water.
  • When swimming, use a shower cap or ear plugs to prevent accumulation of water inside the ears.
  • After swimming, shake your head from side to side to drain off water from the ears.
  • After bathing or swimming, dry your ears using a hair dryer in low mode.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional about your skin conditions.

When talking about hearing loss, it is always best to identify the root causes and take note of the best ways to reduce the chances of developing these conditions. This way, you can take care of your hearing health.

For more helpful insights on hearing care, feel free to browse our blog page!

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