Notes about things regarding scuba diving that I have come to know

Caring For Your Ears

I'm not a doctor, just a diver who has had swimmers ear. I did a bit of research when I had my first case and learned a lot, here it is.

Swimmers ear is an infection of the outer ear, that's the ear canal you see in the side of your head. The first symptoms are often soreness like you slept on your ear the wrong way or somebody slapped you in the ear. This will be different that the typical middle ear infection. A Google search on "swimmers ear" will get you more information than you want to know. What follows is information about preventing swimmers ear. If your ear(s) hurt then see your doctor.

Swimmers ear is a growth in the outer ear. The organisms (bactieria, fungus, etc.) are strains that normally live in the ear and not something that got into your ear while diving. Your ear usually has an acidic condition that keeps the organisms under control. Diving and other water sports will diminish this acidity opening the door for rampant growth. Secondly it's not uncommon for some water to remain in the ear after diving, providing a nice breeding ground.

Needless to say the two objectives are to dry the ear and restore the acidic balance. Swimmers ear was a huge problem for Navy divers taking many out of service at a time. They began to use a formulation from the Bayer Corporation called Otic Domeboro with good results. The other significant thing the navy learned is that the ear canal must be flooded with Otic Domeboro for a full 5 minutes after every dive day, no cheating on the time.

Otic Domeboro was a prescription item and has since been discontinued as a product There are many over the counter items for swimmers ear often containing amounts of alcohol and glycerin. Many doctors including my own suggest a simple home made solution of 50% rubbing alcohol and 50% common white vinegar. Make a batch of this and put it in a clean dropper tip bottle.

The alcohol will act as a drying agent to absorb water as well as killing any growth that may be underway. The vinegar will restore the acidic state of the outer ear and make life miserable for the organisms as well.


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Conclusion:

  • Make a solution of 50% rubbing alcohol and 50% common white vinegar
  • Fill an ear canal full and let stand for no less than 5 minutes.
  • Roll over and repeat.
You will find that laying down with a fluid filled ear is VERY relaxing after a day of diving. It's also a nice thing to do while snuggling with your significant other.

Again I'm not a doctor, just a diver passing on what I have been told and have read. Please do some web searching to learn more for yourself.

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This page created 6/8/06
Edited 10/5/07