Getting water in your ears isn’t usually a big deal, since the ears are designed to let it easily flow back out. Sometimes, however, water can get too deep for this self-emptying mechanism to work – especially during extended water activities.

When you take into consideration that most water carries a host of bacteria that thrive in warm environments, it’s easy to see how a little water in your ears can quickly escalate to an infection known as swimmer’s ear. Its side effects include painful swelling and pressure, reduced hearing ability, vertigo, dizziness and ringing. The first step to avoiding these dangers is prevention, but that doesn’t help if water is already trapped inside your ear. So, along with preventative care, we’ve also provided some practical ‘troubleshooting’ tips for getting water out of your ears.

Keeping your ears dry

Most of us take regular showers, and even this routine activity can leave water trapped inside our ears. Others who swim on a regular basis are even more at risk. Keeping your ears dry therefore becomes an important step to prevention, and you can take it in the following ways:

  • Pulling a swim cap or shower cap over your ears during water activities
  • Getting custom-fit swimming earplugs
  • Toweling off your ears immediately after getting out of the water

Tips to get water out of your ears

Okay, so what if you’ve already got water in your ears? Sometimes all it takes is one of the following tricks to physically loose water:

  • Tilt your head. Gravity will do its work.
  • Lie down on your side. Again, gravity will help your ears do their job; it might just take a few minutes.
  • Yawn and pull (gently) on your earlobes. The movement of your jaw can be just enough movement to dislodge the trapped water.
  • Chew gum. This works your jaws in a slightly different way. If you choose xylitol gum, its antibacterial properties will also ward off infection.
  • Drops of vinegar/rubbing alcohol. Mix two tablespoons of each in a dropper. This solution acts as an antibacterial and drying agent, softening earwax and allowing water to move more freely.
  • OTC eardrops. You can also purchase over-the-counter drops designed to do the same thing.
  • Blow drying. A hand dryer on low might help evaporate the water, but don’t use this method if you’re wearing a hearing aid.
  • Steam therapy. This can loosen ear wax and free trapped water. Either drape your toweled head over a bowel of steaming water or place a warm washcloth over your ear for a few minutes to let the steam do its work.

If you’ve tried these simple, at-home methods to get water out of your ears without success, it might be time to visit a hearing healthcare professional who can safely drain it. During your visit, they’ll also make sure you’re not developing an infection or suffering from any other side effects caused by the trapped water. Again, prevention is the best way to ensure your ears stay dry and healthy while still enjoying the water-based activities you love.