We’ve all experienced it: water trapped in an ear canal. And wow, is it annoying. It feels uncomfortable, you can’t hear well out of the effected ear, there’s a sloshing sound reverberating in your head, and you might have some obnoxious tickling or tingling in your ear that maybe even extends down into your jaw or throat.
And it’s not just a nuisance; water sitting in your ear canal increases the risk of the ear infection commonly known as swimmer’s ear and more scientifically known as otitis externa. A clog of untreated water, as from an outdoor body of water, creates higher risk.
Swimming is a common way to end up with water trapped in your ear. But it can happen from any water exposure, from doing aquatic exercises, participating in a water sport, to even just taking a shower. Ear plugs are an effective preventive measure. But regardless how it gets in there, there are some key dos and don’ts to easily and safely get water out of your ear.x
Steps to Get Water Out of Your Ear
Often, water works its way out of your ear on its own within about an hour. But if you don’t want to wait or it’s been a while, a few simple steps should unclog your ear.
- Dry your outer ear with a clean towel
- Lean your head over to the side of the clogged ear to encourage draining
- Gently pull down on the ear lobe of the effected ear to straighten the ear canal
- If that doesn’t work, keep your head tilted and create a vacuum by tightly cupping your palm over your ear then quickly flattening and cupping it a few times, then remove your hand and keep your head tilted to allow the water to drain
- If the water’s still in there, hold a blow dryer about a foot away from your ear and turn it on the lowest heat setting, then blow into your ear to evaporate the water in it
- Over-the-counter drying ear drops are available for stubborn clogs; you can make your own by mixing ½ teaspoon of white vinegar with ½ teaspoon of rubbing alcohol, then administer it into your ear with a clean dropper and tilt your head to drain
How Not to Get Water Out of Your Ear
Whenever you’re cleaning or unclogging your ears, there are some risks of damaging your ear or hearing. Puncturing your ear drum is a serious concern. You also don’t want to cause injuries that can lead to secondary infections, or to push ear wax and dirt down into the ear canal, leading to an impaction.
- Never stick a cotton-tipped swab or any other object into your ear to get the water out
- Don’t stick your finger or fingernail into your ear either, as this can easily scratch the delicate skin of the ear canal
- Don’t use any method to get water out of your ear that involves ear drops if you have an ear infection or a ruptured ear drum
A Word About Ear Infections
Ear infections are generally easy to treat with a course of topical or oral antibiotics. If your ear becomes red, swollen, itchy, or painful inside, or if you notice any type of discharge, these are signs of an infection. See your doctor. Remember to always complete the full prescribed course of treatment with antibiotics. Don’t stop just because the symptoms clear up, as this often happens before the infection is fully eliminated.