Water stuck in ear: what to do?

Ear blocked with water: how to get rid of muffled ear sensation?

The sensation of having water in the ears is common to everyone, after a shower and, especially in the summer, after a swim in the pool or the sea. This can lead to a muffled ear sensation, which often lasts a short time without consequences. However, when the water does not come out of the ears correctly, it can remain there for days and cause problems such as ear inflammation.

Sounds like water in ear and other symptoms

The sensation of a muffled ear caused by the presence of water in the ears is common. It is characterized by a rustling noise through the ear canal and gurgling sounds on the eardrum. Noises in the ears can be annoying and can lead to ailments such as insomnia. Normally, the ear should reopen after a short time so that the water can drain, often just shaking or tilting the head is enough.

In some cases, however, the unpleasant sensation of muffling in the ear persists for longer, putting at risk the health of the ear since water, salt and chlorine can destroy the protective film of the ear. This increases exposure to pathogens and can lead to inflammation of the duct, such as swimmer's ear. What can you do to drain the water and avoid these problems?

How to get rid of water in ear?

  • Try to remove the water in your ear by shaking or tilting your head. You can also try to get the water absorbed by gently inserting the tip of a tissue into the ear canal. It is essential that the handkerchief is not excessively thick, as otherwise it could irritate the walls.
  • If you should notice that the water does not come out of the ear and gets stuck in it, you need to be careful, in fact, a sudden movement and the use of objects not suitable for its leakage could cause severe and persistent ear pain.
  • Using a hair dryer can also help dry the ear canal properly and get rid of the water inside the ears. However, some precautions are necessary such as a sufficient distance of the hair dryer from the ear and setting the lowest heat level to avoid burns and other related problems.
  • If the above steps are ineffective and the muffled ear sensation does not go away after a couple of days, it is likely that a plug of wax has formed inside the ear. This cap is possibly treatable with ear drops or sprays, which could soften and drain the cap..
  • Ear candles, are not suitable as a definitive treatment for a plug of ear wax, and therefore should not be used to remove water from the ears either.
  • Water in the ear not only creates unpleasant ear pain but it can also be dangerous if it remains stuck for longer. If ear inflammation has already occurred, it is strongly recommended to make an appointment with your GP or otolaryngologist.

What happens if water gets into baby's ear?

In babies and children, ear inflammation caused by water entry can develop more rapidly because their Eustachian tube is shorter and narrower and their immune systems are not yet as strong as that of an adult. So, if water containing germs flows into the baby's ear from the outside and keeps the ear canal moist, otitis media can quickly develop. 

Tympanic effusion, on the other hand, is wheb a liquid forms inside the ear and collects behind the eardrum. Most of the time, an effusion from the tympanic cavity causes pain in the affected person. Tympanic effusions are more common in young children and should be treated quickly in any case as they can lead to pain and decreased hearing.

Why does water get stuck in your ear?

Usually, water accumulates in the ear during a shower, bath or through swimming. The water flows into your ear duct and can sometimes generate the characteristic muffled sound. This is because water floods the ear canal and settles in the ear. It works its way through the slightly sloping ear canal to the eardrum. Due to trapped water, the eardrum cannot move properly and no longer transmits sound completely. That's why you only hear muffled noises accompanied by a low gurgle.

Risks related to water in the ear

If the sensation of muffled ear persists for several days, it is likely that the earwax inside the ear canal has absorbed some of the water, enlarging and occluding the ear. If ear pain does not go away within a couple of days, this can be a wake-up call for an ear canal infection and an appointment with a GP or otolaryngologist is absolutely necessary.

Pain and itching in the ear can indicate an ear infection caused by germs in the water. In this case, the otolaryngologist can prescribe an antibiotic if necessary and remove the remaining water from the ear. Failure to treat these warning signs can, in the worst case, lead to hearing loss.

Swimmer's ear and its symptoms

This inflammation, also known as swimmer's ear, manifests itself through the following symptoms:

  • After a shower, a bath or a dive, hearing is limited and muffled.
  • After one or two days the ear becomes sensitive to the touch and begins to itch. 
  • Severe pain develops inside the ear. When you press on the tragus on the outside of the ear canal or pull the ear, the pains become more acute. 
  • A secretion comes out of the ear. 
  • The skin of the duct may be swollen or red.

How to avoid getting water in your ears

If you are fond of swimming or diving, swimming earplugs can prevent water from entering your ear and its possible complications. The silicone earplugs, available at your Amplifon reference center, are the most suitable: they protect the ear from water penetration. There are waterproof earplugs for adults on one side and special earplugs for children on the other to protect the ears from water penetration. High-quality earplugs seal the ear canals watertight, hold their shape and let sounds pass while preventing water from entering.

To avoid any inflammation, ear drops with glycerin and alcohol, which protect the pH value of the ear, are particularly suitable. They are great for divers, sailors or lovers of water sports. Too intensive cleaning of the ears is to be avoided in order not to damage the natural protective film inside the ear. For adequate ear hygiene a little hot water is more than enough. Cotton swabs are not recommended at this juncture: their use, in fact, can push a cap already present even deeper into the duct, blocking the water more and making it difficult to extract.

What to do if the water doesn't get out?

If the tips do not help and the water in your ear does not clear, then you should urgently make an appointment with your ear, nose and throat doctor, who will drain the water and dry the ear canal. If the ears are often and again and again under water for a long time, fluid gets deep into the ear up to the eardrum and offers possible complications and diseases can develop.

It is therefore important to dry the ear out quickly. If the person has had water in their ears for days, then the wax may already have swelled up. This should also be removed by an ENT specialist in order to be able to hear fully again.

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