Why It’s Important To Get Out All The Water In Ear
Spending time in the water is fun, but it’s often marred by a common after-effect—water in ear. Even those who haven't been in water can experience water in the ear just from excessive sweating or being out in a heavy rainstorm.
Water in ear is a common experience which comes with dulled hearing, and often a distracting “swooshing” sound, along with a clogged ear canal. Although it is a relatively minor annoyance which can pass with time, sometimes water in the ear can be hard to remove. This can be a problem because water left in the ear creates a moist environment that can foster bacterial growth and lead to infection in the outer ear. This infection is often referred to as “swimmer’s ear,” but it is also known as “otitis externa”
Infections caused by water in ear can be painful. Signs include itching, ears painful to the touch, and diminished hearing. Discharge of liquid or pus can also occur as well as swollen lymph nodes. An untreated infection can lead to server problems including bone infection and permanent hearing loss.
That is why it is important to get water out of your ear as soon as possible. This process is not always easy and can take more effort than just a vigorous shake of the head. Dislodging water also requires caution. For example, never insert anything in an ear, including a Q-Tip or a finger, to get rid of water, as the eardrum is easily punctured.
The good news is, water in ear is such a universal problem, there are more than several good methods to clear it out safely. These include tried-and-true manual techniques, and special products developed precisely to dry out excess water from the ears.
Manual Techniques: Gravity, Suction, Hot Compress, Clearing The Eustachian Tubes
The first reaction to water in ear is simply to shake the head vigorously to one side. Much of the time this can be enough to get rid of excess water.
Another method involves tilting the head toward the shoulder and pulling on the earlobe to help release the excess liquid. Some doctors recommend taking this head tilting movement up a notch. Stand on the leg the same side as the clogged ear. Then tilting the head toward this leg, hop up and down until the water flows out.
Creating a Vacuum
You can sometimes use your hand to create a vacuum to draw the water out. Tilt the head sideways while keeping a palm cupped tightly over the ear. Then rapidly flatten and cup the hand in a pumping motion to pull out the water.
Applying a Warm Compress
Take a warm washcloth or other cloth and apply to the ear. Leave the compress in place for around 30 seconds. Remove it for 30 seconds and then repeat four or five times. Then lie down on the affected side of the body to allow the water to drain
Clearing the Eustachian Tube
The Eustachian Tube is a canal that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat and nasal cavity. Sometimes water can go deep enough in the ear to clog this tube, leaving a feeling of ear “fullness.”
In this case, both yawning, and chewing gum, like you might do on an airplane to help with pressure, can work to clear the ears. After a few yawns or a good chew tilt your head to see if any water can be released from your ear.
The Valsalva maneuver can also be used. This involves closing your mouth and gently holding your nostrils shut with your fingers while allowing some room for air to escape. Then breathe deeply and slowly blow the air out your nose. If you hear a clicking sound your Eustachian tubes are open and you can tilt your head and drain the water from your ears. Be careful not to blow too hard as that can damage your eardrum.
Ease of Use
Some maneuvers are a little difficult or require caution.
Many people have good results removing water in ear without resorting to commercial products. However, they are not as consistently effective drops, ear dryers or the Bionix swabs.
Sometimes, however, no matter how much hopping and shaking, the water persists in the ear. This handy little device was designed by an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor. It blows warm air into the ear canal and can dry up the water in about a minute. It is a step up from using a hair-dryer for the same purpose, which is sometimes recommended, as it is made to fit safely in the ear.
This device is handheld and folds shut for easy portability. It runs off AA batteries or can be plugged in. It has different settings to allow for an intensity of air flow, cycle time, and noise volume. It also comes with 4 detachable heads which can be cleaned easily for multiple users or uses. It comes doctor recommended for use after swimming, scuba, water sports, bathing, etc. It is also suitable for drying the water that collects behind hearing aids.
Ease of Use
The handheld device is easy enough for kids to use. The batteries do run out of charge quickly.
Many swimmers and scuba divers who have reviewed this product swear by it. A few users have complained that the airflow isn’t strong enough to dry the ear out and that the device breaks easily.
Ear drying drops are another common way to remove excess water. Many swimmers swear by these drops and use them consistently. There area number of ear-drying drops on the market all with similar, mostly positive, reviews. Popular brands include Swim Ear Water-Drying Aid and ENT Essentials Ear Drying Drops,
Eardrops are made from an alcohol-based solution which helps evaporate excess moisture. Ear drops can also be made at home by mixing equal parts alcohol and vinegar, mimicking the store-bought drops. The addition of vinegar may help prevent the development of bacterial infections in the ear.
To use any of these ear drops, put about 4 to 5 drops in the affected ear and wait. After about 30 seconds the water in the ear should evaporate due to the alcohol. Any excess water should then drain out when the head is tilted.
On the downside, some users have complained that the alcohol in these drops irritates their ears. Also BEFORE using any ear drops in the ear, it is crucial to be sure you do not have a perforated eardrum. Finally, If you have ever had an injured ear or ear surgery check with a doctor before using drops.
These drops generally come in 1-oz bottles that allow the solution to dispensed easily in the ears. Consumers can buy single bottles or packs of 4 to 6. The main, and active, ingredients of all these drops is Isopropyl Alcohol.
Most drops are about 95% alcohol. The most common inactive ingredient is Anhydrous Glycerin, usually a 5% base.
Ease of Use
These drops can occasionally cause irritation. They also should not be used by anyone who has had a perforated eardrum. They are toxic if ingested and should be kept out of reach of children.
Ear drops like Swim Ear Water-Drying Aid and ENT Essentials Ear Drying Drops generally get good reviews from users. Just four or five drops used can dry out the ears within minutes. However, these drops do not work for everyone.
Although prevailing wisdom cautions to insert nothing in your ear, Bionix Afterswim swabs are an exception. These are soft, slim, oval-shaped sponges, safe to use in the ear. The oval design makes sure that only the tip of the sponge can fit in the start of the ear canal and soak up excess water. The wicking action ensures that only the tip of the sponge needs to touch the water in the ear to soak it up.
These sponges are made from an absorbent cellulose material. They are chemical and alcohol-free. Each swab absorbs up to 5 times more liquid than can be contained in the typical ear canal. One swab can be used for both ears. They are safe for all ages. They are sold in packages of 20.
Ease of Use
These soft swabs are safe even for kids to use themselves. Just the tip of these small ovals needs to touch the water in the ear so it requires no forceful insertion. The wicking action sucks up the water quickly.
Most users report that Bionix Afterswim swabs get rid of water efficiently. A few say the product does not work for them. This could be due to the particular shape of the ear canal.
Manual Methods: Three out of Five Stars ***
These techniques cost nothing and are well worth trying after water in ear is detected. However, they don’t always work. It is also important to be careful not to blow too hard when performing the Valsalva maneuver.
Mack’s Ear Dryer: Four out of Five Stars ****
This device is handy and particularly popular among frequent swimmers, scuba divers, and those who have hearing aids to dry. Many find the warm air soothing, and it can dry out the ears thoroughly and quickly. However, the batteries can sometimes run out easily and a few devices have been reported as defective.
Ear Drying Drops (Store-Bought or Homemade): Four out of Five Stars ****
Store bought drops like Swim-Ear Water-Drying Aid and ENT Essentials AllDry Ear Drying Drops receive high marks from most users. They are easy to carry around and have on hand when needed. Home-made drops also score well.
However, some users report irritation after using these alcohol-based drops, and others find them ineffective.
Bionix Health at Home Afterswim Water Removal: Four out of Five Stars ****
These handy swabs are alcohol and chemical free. They are also safe to use with no reports of irritation. However, some users report that the swabs do not work for them and prefer other methods.
While there is not one “fail-safe” method to handle water in ear, there are many ways to address the problem that can be effective.