In most cases, water stays trapped in our ear due to swimming. However, there are other cases that cause water to get trapped in the ear canal. Any exposure to water might result in water in the ear .
When that happens, you might feel tickling sensation in your ear, and the feeling usually extends to the jawbone and throat. The question people ask then is how to get water out of your ear.
Due to water in your ear canal, you might experience hearing problems, as you might hear only muffled sounds. In some cases, water drains out of your ear on its own.
On other cases, the trapped water might result in an ear infection . The medical term for the infection is “swimmer’s ear”.
What is water in ear?
When you have water, or any other fluid trapped in the ear, the condition is called serous otitis media, or otitis media with effusion. The condition is basically an accumulation of fluid behind the ear drum that can occur under any condition when the auditory tube is impaired.
This tube allows the fluid to drain from the ear and into the back of the throat. When the tube is clogged, fluids become trapped in the middle ear space. Common cold and allergies can also lead to fluid in the ear due to inflammation.
When you are sick, mucous prevent the auditory tube from draining.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at all of the causes of swimmer’s ear and how to get water out of your ear .
Causes and symptoms of water in ear
Anyone can get water trapped in the ear. However, children are more likely to suffer from this condition because of the anatomy of their auditory tube. The tube is smaller in diameter in children, and also more horizontal than the tube of an adult.
Each year, there are more than 2 million cases of water in ear, and more than 90 out of 100 children get fluid in their ear at some point.
All cases of fluid in the ear are caused by auditory tube dysfunction. The cause for the dysfunction is different, but the result is always the same, as the Eustachian tube cannot drain out properly .
Here are the common causes of auditory tube dysfunction:
- Allergies, especially in the spring and autumn
- Congestion which may come from a cold virus, similar infections, and even pregnancy
- Damage to the auditory tube from radiation for head and neck cancer
- Surgeries that may transect the auditory tube
- Exposure to chemical irritants, most notably cigarette smoke
- Enlarged sinus tissue, nasal polyps, tonsils, and other growths that block the auditory tube
- Rapid changes in ambient air pressure, most commonly occurring during flying and scuba driving
- Oral abnormalities associated with Down syndrome or cleft palate
Now that we know the causes, we need to look at the symptoms as well. The moment you notice the symptoms, you need to do something for how to get water out of your ear.
Symptoms range in severity by individuals. Small children are usually symptomless. However, there is also a belief that children just cannot express discomfort in the absence of severe ear pain. That is why most symptoms go unnoticed by parents and caretakers.
Adults, on the other hand, experience either subtle symptoms, or cite constant ear pain and debilitating symptoms.
With that in mind, here are the common symptoms for fluid in the ears:
- Pain in the ear
- Feeling that your ears are plugged up
- Ringing in the ear, a condition known as tinnitus
- Increased ear pain when changing altitude
- Unable to pop the ears
- Behavior problems
- Feeling of fullness in the ears
- Hearing loss or sensation that sounds are muffled
- Loss of balance, or sometimes even vertigo
- Poor performances related to hearing loss
These conditions include middle ear infection, ear barotrauma, earache, and ear drainage.
Natural remedies for water in ear
As mentioned before, once you notice the symptoms of water in ear, you need to start looking for answers how to get water out of your ear.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at several natural remedies.
This is the simplest, and arguably most commonly used method for getting water out of ear. Jiggling your earlobe might help you shake the water out right away.
For this method, gently tug or jiggle your earlobe while tilting your head in a downward motion toward the shoulder. If you ever watched swimming at the Olympics, you might have noticed swimmers doing this after the race. Or if you’ve been to the pool, you’ve definitely seen someone do it.
While in this position, you can also try shaking your head from side to side.
Get help from gravity
Sometimes, the most natural method is just to allow nature to do the work. Or in this case, gravity. Thanks to gravity and how it works, the water will be drained from your ear.
To use gravity, lie on your side for few minutes. Place your head on a towel to absorb the water. It will take few minutes, but the water will slowly drain out.
Using cold compress you can release that water trapped between your Eustachian tube . This is the tube that connects the middle ear to the area behind the nasal passage. To use cold compress for getting water out of ear, follow these steps.
Start by damping a washcloth in hot, but not scalding water. Wring out the washcloth before using so it doesn’t drip. Tilt your head downward on the affected side.
Apply the cloth to the outside of the ear. Let it stay there for 30 seconds, and then remove it for one minute. Repeat the process four or five times. Afterwards, sit up or lie down on the side opposite of the affected area.
Create a vacuum
A vacuum will help draw the water out of your ear. To create a vacuum, you first need to tilt your head sideways. Rest your ear onto cupped palm. Make sure to create a tight seal.
Now, gently push your hand back and forth toward the ear in rapid motion, flattening it as you push and cupping as you pull. Once you are done pushing back and forth for few seconds, tilt your head down. This will allow the water to drain out of your ear.
Use blow dryer
A blow dryer works similarly as a hot compress. The heat will evaporate the water inside, and you will be water and pain-free.
Here is what to do.
Set up your blow dryer at the lowest setting. Hold the dryer about one foot away from your ear. Move it in back and forth motion. While tugging down on your earlobe, allow the warm air to blow into your ear.
Yawn or chew
Moving your mouth can sometimes help open the Eustachian tube, and allow water to drain out. In that case, all you have to do is yawn or chew a gum to relive the tension in the tube. While yawing and chewing, tilt your head to release water trapped in your ear.
The Valsalva maneuver
This method can easily open your clogged and closed Eustachian tubes. However, you need to be very careful, as it can be risky and damage your ear drum. Do not blow too hard.
To perform the maneuver, close your mouth and gently squeeze your nostrils shut with your fingers .
Breathe deeply, and slowly blow the air out of your nose. Once you hear a popping sound, that means the tubes have opened. Now, tilt your head to allow the water to drain from your ear.
Alcohol and vinegar eardrops
Alcohol can help eliminate growth of bacteria and evaporate water in the ear. But that doesn’t mean you need to get your ears drunk.
This method is effective only when the water is trapped due to earwax buildup. Vinegar can help remove the earwax and allow the water to drain out .
Combine equal parts of alcohol and vinegar to prepare eardrops. Get a sterile dropper, and apply just two or three drops in the ear. Gently rub the outside, and after 30 seconds, tilt your head sideways to let the solution and water drain out.
This method is not recommended if you have outer ear infection, eardrum tubes, or a perforated eardrum.
Hydrogen peroxide eardrops
Similar as vinegar, hydrogen peroxide can also clear debris, earwax, bacteria, and trapped water inside your ear.
For this remedy, use a clean dropper and place two to three drops of hydrogen peroxide into your ear. Wait two or three minutes for the solution to clean the ear. Then, tilt the affected side downward, and the fluids will drain out.
Same as with the alcohol treatment, do not use hydrogen peroxide if you have outer ear infection, perforated eardrum, or eardrum tubes.
Olive oil can help you for how to get water out of your ear, and also prevent ear infection in the same time. For this remedy, warm olive oil in a small bowl. Do not overheat it, you do not want to burn your ear. Use a clean dropper, and place 2 to 3 drops of olive oil in the affected ear.
Now, lie on your other side and stay like that for 10 minutes. Sit up, and tilt the ear downward. The water and oil will drain out.
You might notice a pattern here. Warm compress, warm olive oil, and now warm steam. When you use warm steam, you can release water from your middle ear. Take a hot shower, or just give yourself a mini sauna using a bowl of hot water.
For the latter, fill a large bowl with hot steaming water. Cover your head with a towel to ensure the steam stays in. Hold your face over the bowl, and inhale the steam for 5 to 10 minutes. Now, tilt your head to the side to drain the ear.
Tips to prevent water in ear
If you constantly suffer from water getting trapped in your ear, you need to do something to prevent the condition. One way to prevent water getting trapped is wearing a cap or ear plugs when bathing or swimming.
After coming out of water, use a dry towel to clean your ears. Another way to prevent water getting trapped is shaking your head from side to side after getting out of the water.
Why it is important to get water out of the ear?
You might think water is harmless, so why bother getting it out of your ear? Well, if water is trapped for too long, you might develop an infection. Bacteria breeding and found in polluted water is the cause for the ear infection.
People swimming in water containing high levels of bacteria, for example, a lake, are at risk of developing swimmer’s ear .
Our ear has different defense mechanisms that protect against infection. However, if they defenses are overwhelmed, an ear infection occurs. Conditions like excess moisture in the ear, allergies to hair products and jewelry, and scratches and cuts in the ear canal can promote ear infection.
When an infection develops, a person will experience intense itching and increased pain. The ear may even become too painful to touch. You might also experience fluid drainage and discharge of pus.
Severe ear infection often leads to fever, pain in the face, neck, side of the head, and swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck. Complications may include temporary hearing difficulties and pain. In some cases, you might even experience long-term infection, resulting in bone and cartilage drainage.
When to see a doctor?
If the problem with water in your ear persists for more than several days, and home remedies have not helped, you should consult with a physician. When the pain is severe, and a fever is present, visit a physician immediately.
You need to understand that ear infections can be serious if not treated, and they lead to hearing loss and damage to cartilage.
Treatment for ear infection includes over-the-counter eardrops that are alcohol based. These can help reduce moisture in the outer ear canal and kill bacteria.
What is swimmer’s ear?
With all that talk about how to get water out of your ear, we need to look at a condition that can occur if you do not take proper care of your ears.
Swimmer’s ear is a disorder of the skin that covers the outer ear canal leading to the tympanic membrane, or eardrum.
The condition is also known as acute otitis externa, or external otitis. In more than 98% of the cases, the swimmer’s ear is a result of a bacterial infection (streptococcus, staphylococcus, o pseudomonas).
The condition occurs after excessive water exposure. While the ear has defense mechanisms to protect itself, they work when the ear is dry.
Germs and bacteria accumulate in pools and other areas of fresh water. And if you do not get water out of your ear after swimming or spending time in water, the bacteria will accumulate.
While it is easy to treat, it is best that you prevent it.
Symptoms of swimmer’s ear
There are three different types of external otitis, one of which is swimmer’s ear.
The symptoms for the condition include:
- Redness and swelling
- Inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal
- Pain in the ear
- Scaly skin in and around the ear canal
- Tenderness when the ear or jaw is moved
- Itching and irritation around the ear canal
- Sore and swollen lymph nodes in the throat
While the condition can occur due to swimming in water with bacteria, there are other risk factors that can contribute to swimmer’s ear.
For example, over-cleaning, scratching, scrapping, and prodding the ear canal is considered a risk factor. It is recommended not to use cotton swabs for cleaning.
Having too much earwax is also a risk factor. You need to clean your ears properly, and take care of hygiene. Wearing a swim cap for too long can also increase the risk of water getting trapped inside your ear.
Children are a risk group. We mentioned their anatomy is different and the ear canal is smaller.
The treatment for the condition is straightforward. Once the physician diagnoses the problem, he/she will prescribe you painkillers to relieve discomfort. You will also use ear drops, and a specialist might use microsuction to clean the ear . That will make the ear drops more effective.
In some cases, an ear wick can help. And in some cases, home remedies mentioned previously can help, as long as the infection is not severe. One home treatment that works is mixing equal parts of rubbing alcohol and vinegar and using the solution as ear drops.