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James David Hearing Care – Hartlepool’s leading ear wax removal specialist

Outer ear infection (Otitis Externa): what it is and how to treat it

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Outer ear infection
Outer Ear Infection

Outer ear infections (Otitis externa), also known as swimmer’s ear, is a common condition that occurs when the ear canal becomes inflamed or infected. It is often caused by water remaining in the ear after swimming, bathing or after ‘syringing’. (An ear wax removal method with much higher risks than our very own micro-suction technique). This leads to a moist environment in the ear that promotes the growth of bacteria. Otitis externa can have several effects on the ear, including hearing loss, pain, and tinnitus.

Hearing Loss

One of the most common effects of otitis externa on the ear is hearing loss. This can occur because the inflammation in the ear canal can cause it to swell, leading to a blockage that prevents sound waves from reaching the eardrum. As a result, individuals may experience a decrease in hearing and difficulty understanding speech.

Earwax Removal

Otitis externa can also lead to a buildup of earwax. This is because the inflammation in the ear canal can cause the skin to produce more earwax, which can then become impacted and block the ear canal. This buildup can exacerbate hearing loss and other symptoms of otitis externa. 


Tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear, can also be a side effect of otitis externa. This is because the inflammation in the ear canal can cause pressure changes in the middle ear, leading to the perception of sound when there is no external noise present. While tinnitus is not usually a serious condition, it can be annoying and disruptive to daily life.

Treatment Options

Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for individuals with otitis externa who are experiencing effects on their ears. Over-the-counter ear drops that contain a combination of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medication can be effective in treating mild cases of otitis externa. For more severe cases, prescription medication from your GP or even a referral to an ear, nose, and throat specialist may be necessary.

In cases where hearing loss or earwax buildup is a concern, individuals may need to undergo earwax removal or even surgery to correct any structural issues in the ear canal.


Prevention is key when it comes to infections. To reduce your risk of developing the condition, it is important to keep your ears dry and clean. After swimming or showering, use a towel to gently dry your ears and tilt your head to the side to allow any excess water to drain out. Avoid inserting objects like cotton buds into your ears as this can cause damage and promote infection. You can pick up more prevention techniques and pain relief info on our ‘How to manage an ear infection’ page.

In conclusion, otitis externa can have several effects on the ear. Hearing loss, pain, and tinnitus. It is important for individuals to be aware of these potential complications and seek treatment when necessary. By following the appropriate treatment plan and taking steps to prevent the condition from developing, you can reduce the impact infections and speed up your recovery.

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For some independent advice on ear infections, click this link to take you to the NHS page.