Swimmer's Ear (Otitis Externa): Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Otitis externa, sometimes known as swimmer's ear, is an inflammation or infection of the ear canal, the tube that leads from the eardrum to the outer ear. The term "swimmer's ear" is used because this infection often occurs in people who have been swimming or in the water. In addition to ear pain, symptoms can include

  • dizziness,
  • itching,
  • a feeling of fullness in the ear, and
  • drainage or discharge of fluid from the ear.

Causes of swimmer's ear

Swimmer's ear is usually due to bacterial or fungal infection and can be very painful. The two types of bacteria most commonly responsible for swimmer's ear are Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Risk factors for otitis externa include skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and seborrhea; trauma from ear wax (cerumen) removal; buildup of ear wax; and the use of external devices such as hearing aids.

Other swimmer's ear (otitis externa) symptoms and signs

  • Decreased Hearing or Hearing Loss
  • Ear Discharge
  • Ear Drainage
  • Ear Itching
  • Ear Pain
  • Enlarged or Swollen Lymph Nodes in the Upper Neck or Ear Area
  • Feeling of Blockage of the Ear Canal
  • Feeling of Fullness in the Ear
  • Jaw Pain
  • Mild Fever
  • Neck Pain
  • Pain in the Side of the Head
  • Redness of the Skin Around the Ear
  • Swelling of the Ear Canal

Waitzman, Ariel A. "Otitis Externa." Medscape.com. July 11, 2016. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/994550-overview>.