Ear Canal

Ear Canal Infection

What is it?

Otitis externa is the medical name for an inflammation of the ear canal, most often caused by an invasion of bacteria and/or fungi. A common term also used is Swimmer’s Ear. Ear infections are one of the most common ear conditions. They can be extremely troublesome to treat if the basic rules are not followed.

What causes it?

Usually a person has damaged the skin lining and the infection gets in and takes over. The skin damage is most likely done by inserting an object into the ear canal – usually to clean!

What factors lead to ear canal infections?

insertion of objects; cotton buds, keys, etc ear syringing injuries

soap/shampoo, swimming, ear syringing, water sports

Hot holidays: climate, sweat, swim, less sleep, poor food, more alcohol
Work: muffs, plugs, phone sets
Summer: exercise, sweat, ear plugs, hearing aids, swim, water sports

ear syringing, instrument use without microscope vision

narrow or extra curvy canals

Skin Conditions
eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis

How does it affect people?

  • irritation
  • itchiness, often intense
  • increasing pain, especially on movement of the outer ear (pinna) or jaw
  • tenderness lying on that side
  • often interupts good sleep
  • blocked ear if it swells shut
  • slight discharge, often with odour
  • in severe infections, swelling can spread to outer ear (pinna) and face

How can TOLBECS help you?

TOLBECS ‘best practice’ is to:

  • meticulously clean the ear canal – eardrops can then work quickly: reducing pain and swelling, allowing rapid healing
  • identify the offending organism by sending a sample of the infected debris to the lab via your GP
  • either refer you urgently to your GP for ear drops NOW
  • or advise you to see your GP when the results are known in 48+ hours; your GP will then have the lab results, your ear to look at and our TOLBECS report so the best treatment decision can be made
  • advise on what you can do to help this infection get better
  • teach you how you can prevent ear infections in the future

How can you help yourself?

  • perhaps deliver the swab and report to your GP
  • keep your ear dry – no soap/water/shampoo
    • for one month, if your ear canal is usually normal, until the protective layers return
    • for ever if your ear canal flakes lots of skin
  • do not scratch or poke in your ear canals ever!
  • keep ears empty – you may need to have wax/skin removed – every 6 or 12 months
  • call into TOLBECS regularly for a FREE Ear Canal check to make sure your ears are empty
    • especially before flying; before summer; before a diving/snorkeling/kayak trip etc