Swimmer’s Ear – Do You Know the Symptoms?

If you and your family will spend time in the swimming pool this summer, make sure you know the symptoms and risks of swimmer's ear.

If you and your family will spend time in the swimming pool this summer, make sure you know the symptoms and risks of swimmer’s ear.

Summertime here in sunny Florida inevitably means lots of time spent in the pool, the river or the ocean. Swimming is a favorite pastime, offering a cool respite from the sweltering sun. But that relief may be short-lived if you catch a case of swimmer’s ear, say specialist at St. Augustine Ear, Nose and Throat.

Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. The most common cause is water that remains in your ear after a swim, creating a moist environment that’s prime real estate for bacterial growth. However, it also can be caused by damage to the thin layer of skin lining your ear canal, often caused by placing objects like cotton swabs, hairpins or finger tips in your ear; and by sensitivity or allergic reactions to hair product or jewelry.

Swimmer’s ear infections can range from mild cases that can be treated with drops to severe cases that can have long-term effects. Symptoms include:

Mild

  • Itching in the ear canal
  • Slight redness inside the ear
  • Mild discomfort that’s intensified by pulling on your outer ear or pushing on the tragus (that small, pointed prominence situated in front of the ear)
  • Some drainage of clear, odorless fluid

Moderate

  • More intense itching
  • Increasing pain
  • More extensive redness in the ear
  • Excessive fluid drainage
  • Pus discharge
  • A sensation of fullness inside your ear and partial blockage of the ear canal by swelling, fluid and debris
  • Decreased or muffled hearing

Severe

  • Intense pain that radiates to the face, neck or side of the head
  • Complete blockage of the ear canal
  • Redness or swelling of the outer ear
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck
  • Fever

If gone untreated, swimmer’s ear can lead to complications including temporary hearing loss, bone and cartilage damage, and long-term or deep tissue infection, and potentially fatal infections that can spread to other parts of the body including the brain or nervous system. Prevent swimmer’s ear by keeping your ears dry; draining them by tipping your head to the side after swimming; swimming in well-maintained swimming pools rather than ponds, lakes or ocean spots that may have high bacterial counts; avoiding putting fingers or foreign objects in your ear; and protecting your ears from irritants like hairsprays and hair dyes.

If you or your children experience symptoms of swimmer’s ear, call 904-461-6060 to schedule a consultation at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat’s St. Augustine or Ponte Vedra locations.

Dr. Kalpana DePasquale Featured on TLC’s "My Strange Addiction"

Everyone has a bad habit they’d like to break, but what if you were addicted to something seriously harmful, like digging in your ear with giant scissors?

You call in the experts, of course. The “Ear Digger” episode of TLC’s popular freaky-habit show, “My Strange Addiction”, featured a young woman who couldn’t stop digging in her ears with sharp, pointy objects. Our own Dr. Kalpana DeDasquale of St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat was called in to give her some much-needed help! The air date for the episode was February 17th, 2012.

When 32-year-old Jamie, a resident of Jacksonville, FL, was a young girl, a flower became lodged in her ear canal. The flower was removed, but Jamie was convinced that there was still something foreign deep inside her ear.

Over the next 23 years, her ear-digging habit became a full-blown addiction that alienated her friends, forced her fiancé to postpone the wedding, and left her at risk of going completely deaf.

Jamie used a plethora of scary-looking tools to accomplish her gruesome task, from bobby pins to different-sized scissors to a tiny scalpel. Her ears have repeatedly swollen themselves shut, she’s punctured her ear drum, and she’s had multiple ear infections and regular bleeding.

How Dr. DePasquale was able to help Jamie

Jamie knew she had to stop this dangerous compulsion, but it wasn’t until her fiancé postponed their wedding that she decided to seek medical help at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.

St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat featured on My Strange Addiction

At SAENT, Dr. Kalpana listened to Jamie describe her addiction, then used a otoscope to check out the damage done to Jamie’s ear canals. She showed Jamie the results of her digging, a location in the inner ear that had “clearly been picked at” and various areas of swelling, though Dr. Kalpana was surprised to find that the ear drums were intact.

At the end of the examination, Dr. Kalpana sat Jamie down and gave her a sobering warning. “I am worried that you will have progressive hearing loss, perforate your ear drums, perhaps even require surgery,” she told a concerned-looking Jamie. “I do suggest that you see a psychologist so that they can help the emotional side of this.”

Thankfully, Jamie took Dr. Kaplana’s warning to heart and went to a therapist, who diagnosed her with “impulse control disorder,” a condition characterized by impulsive actions that achieve a small, short term gain (such as an adrenaline rush) but at the expense of a huge, long-term loss.

The therapy sessions and her visit to St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat helped Jamie to finally stop her ear digging, and the episode left her alive and well, working on her relationship with her fiancé and freed from her dangerous addiction.

This strange addiction seems extreme to most, but inner-ear disorders and discomfort is not uncommon. If you feel pain or discomfort in your ears or sinuses, make sure you give us a call to schedule a visit with Dr. DePasquale by calling (904) 461-6060 today.