Sometimes after swimming, diving, or bathing recently, you may feel like you still have water in your ears. It can affect one or both ears and damage your hearing, make your ears feel like they need to click, or just feel irritated.
Leaving excess water in the ear canal can increase your chances of developing an infection called swimmer's ear . Swimmer's ear occurs when moisture allows bacteria to grow inside the ear canal. This can be avoided by keeping the ears dry.
Some people are more likely to develop swimmer's ear than others. If you have had this infection in the past, you should take special care to keep your ear canal clean and dry .
You can prevent water from getting into your ears by wearing ear plugs (available at most drugstores) while bathing or swimming.
How to remove water from your ears
Try the following methods to remove water from your ears after swimming or bathing:
- Tilt your head down or lie on your side so the water can drain by gravity. You can put a folded towel under your head and lie on the pillow. It may be helpful to gently pull the earlobe down to straighten the ear canal and facilitate water drainage. Also try shaking your head from side to side.
- Use a hair dryer on a low (cold) setting to gently dry your ears. Be careful not to bring the hair dryer too close to your ear to avoid burns. It may be helpful to pull the earlobe (pulling it towards the shoulder) or gently flick it from side to side when using a hair dryer .
If the above methods don't work and you don't have a medical condition that damages your eardrum (see below), you can try ear drops:
- Rubbing alcohol and vinegar : Use one part isopropyl alcohol and one part vinegar. Lie on your side while the other person pipettes three or four drops of the solution into your ear. Lie in this position for another 30 seconds, then tilt your head so that all of the fluid comes out of the ear.
- Hydrogen peroxide : Use three to four drops of hydrogen peroxide. Leave it in your ear for a minute or two before tilting your head to let the liquid escape.
- Over-the-counter ear drops : If you choose over-the-counter ear drops, be sure to follow the directions on the package. The ear drops should be used at room temperature. If they are too cold, you may feel dizzy or strange when you put them in your ear .
What not to do if you have water in your ears
Never put anything in your ears to try to get water out, including cotton swabs. You can accidentally push water further into your ear, introduce bacteria, or even damage your ear canal or eardrum.
Do not put drops in your ear if you have recently had ear surgery, have had ventilation tubes surgically installed, or if you may have a ruptured eardrum .
When to call your healthcare provider
Even if you can't remove the water from your ears with one of the methods listed above, your ears will usually clear it on their own within a day or two.
You should call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Redness, itching, or peeling of the skin in the ear canal.
- Sudden or permanent hearing loss.
- Bloody, yellow, green, milky, or foul-smelling discharge from the ear.
- Any other symptoms that seem unusual or persist.
It should also be noted that fluid can collect behind the eardrum. This is not the same as putting water into the ear canal after bathing or taking a bath, although both conditions can cause similar symptoms. Middle ear fluid is much more common in young children than adults, although it can occur in all age groups.
If you have fluid behind your eardrum, none of the methods listed in this article will be able to remove it. Your healthcare provider can watch you and see if the fluid clears up on its own (usually within a few months) or if you may need to have ventilation tubes surgically inserted .