Water in ears

I have water in my ears: what are the causes and how should I remove it?
Sep, 09, 2021

Water in the ears and muffled ears

The sensation of having water in the ears is common to everyone, after a shower and, especially in the summer, after a swim in the pool or the sea. This can lead to a muffled or clogged ear sensation, which often lasts a short time without consequences. 

The sensation of a muffled ear is caused by the presence of water in the ears. It is characterised by a rustling noise through the ear canal and gurgling sounds on the eardrum. Normally the ear should feel less blocked after a short time, and finally feel like it has "re-opened". Often just shaking or tilting the head is enough to get rid of the blocked sensation. 

How to avoid water in the ear?

If you are fond of swimming or diving, swimming earplugs can prevent water from entering your ear and its possible complications. Swim plugs are available at Bay Audiology clinics, and are a suitable solution to protect the ear from water. These can also be worn in the shower or bath to protect your ears from water.  

To avoid any inflammation, ear drops with glycerin and alcohol, which protect the pH value of the ear, are sometimes suitable, especially for divers, sailors or lovers of water sports. Intensive cleaning of the ears should be avoided in order not to damage the natural protective film inside the ear. 

Risks related to water in the ear

If the sensation of muffled ear persists for several days, it is possible that the earwax inside the ear canal has absorbed some of the water. If ear pain does not go away within a couple of days, this can indicate an ear canal infection and an appointment with a GP is recommended. 

Water that contains bacteria, such as when swimming or bath water, can become trapped in the ear canal and lead to infection. This is often indicated by pain, itching or leaking from the ear canal. In this case, your GP can prescribe an antibiotic if necessary and remove the remaining water from the ear. It is important to address these symptoms, as if left untreated they can damage the ear and could cause hearing loss.

Water in children's ears

In babies and children, ear infections caused by water being stuck in their ear can develop more rapidly because they have narrower ear canals. So it is important to monitor symptoms of ear infection in children, and consult your GP if necessary. 

Children can also experience ear pain after jumping into water, as the air or water pressure changes around them. It can be suggested to exhale through their nose when they jump to prevent ear pain. 

Swimming in cold water can also cause ear pain as the ear has no protective fat tissue, so the nerves in the ear canal can cause ear pain in cold water temperatures. 

A family having breakfast at home
How to prevent water in the ears

It is normal to have water in the ears after showering or swimming. However, it can cause your ears to feel clogged or muffled. There are earplugs specially designed for swimming that can be used to prevent water intrusion in the ear canal.

Learn about swimming earplugs
Three people talking in a Bay Audiology store
Get in touch with your GP if you have concerns

Water in the ear not only creates unpleasant ear pain but it can cause complications if it remains stuck for longer. If you experience prolonged discomfort or suspect that inflammation has occurred due to symptoms of swelling, pain, itchiness or irritation, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your GP.

Why do I have water in my ear?

Usually, water accumulates in the ear during a shower, bath or through swimming. The water flows into your ear canal and can sometimes generate the characteristic muffled sound. This is because water floods the ear canal and settles in the ear. It works its way through the slightly sloping ear canal to the eardrum. due to trapped water, the eardrum may not move as well to transmit sound as it normally would. That's why you only hear muffled noises accompanied by a low gurgle. Water or sea water in your ear can also cause ear pain, ringing in your ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss.

Remove water or other liquids

Try to remove the water in your ear by shaking or tilting your head. Using a hair dryer can also help dry the ear canal properly and get rid of the water inside the ears. However, some precautions are necessary such as a sufficient distance of the hair dryer from the ear and setting the lowest heat level to avoid burns and other related problems.

If the above treatments for water in your ear are ineffective, you could also try placing a few drops of olive oil into the ear canal of the affected ear and lie on your side for 10 minutes. After this time, the oil and water should drain once you sit up. 

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