Ear Canal Infection: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

You must have faced infection in your ear at any stage of your life which might be very painful to bear. Ear canal infection is very common to occur in young and adults. If you suffer from ear canal infection you need to take proper treatment of your ear with some precautions. Let us try to know more about ear canal infection, why it is caused, its symptoms, how it is diagnosed, treatment methods and preventive measures to be taken.

What is Ear Canal Infection?

Ear canal infection is basically the infection of the outer ear or the passage leading to the external ear which is also called Otitis Externa. The inflammation occurs due to infection, water, dirt or other debris get into the ear and sometimes due to allergy or irritation. It occurs frequently to children and young adults who swim a lot and is associated with excess water in the ear canal so it is also known as swimmer’s ear. Otitis externa or ear canal infection usually clears within a week then it is called acute otitis externa and when it lasts for three months or more then it is called as chronic otitis externa.

Causes of Ear Canal Infection

Ear canal infection is very common to occur and it may be caused due to various reasons. Most infections are caused by germs which may be due to fungi or bacteria. Let us have a look at various common causes of ear canal infection.

  • Swimming: Ear canal infection is very common to occur in regular swimmers. It is more likely to occur when you are swimming when water is not clean. When water enters the canal, skin becomes a medium for growth of bacteria which further causes ear canal infection.
  • Warm weather: Ear canal infection is most likely to occur in the hot, humid and the sweaty weather. Hence, it is most common to occur in the summer season.
  • Excessive earwax: Excessive wax and also cleaning the wax in a harsh manner causes the ear infection. Wax protects the ear from moisture but the excess amount of this wax can lead to trapping of debris in the ear which can cause an ear infection.
  • Skin problems: Using products such as shampoo, hair sprays, hair dye can cause skin problem to the ear canal and also can cause irritation in the ear.
  • Middle ear infection: Middle ear infection can cause consistent discharge to the outer ear which gets stuck in there. If this infection lasts for a long time then it can also cause ear canal infection.
  • Ear syringing to clear the earwax: Using a syringe to clear wax can irritate the delicate lining of the ear and can cause inflammation. Ear wax is the protective layer which protects from any infection but less amount of ear wax can cause infection as no protection layer will be present.

Symptoms of Ear Canal Infection

Some common symptoms of ear canal infection are as follows:

  • Itching and pain in the ear
  • Swelling of the canal
  • Discharge from the ear which is watery in nature
  • Foul smell from the discharge
  • Blockage of the ear may be felt
  • Diminished hearing

Diagnosis of Ear Canal Infection

To diagnose ear canal infection doctor will check whether pulling the earlobe gently or the flap of the ear in front of the ear canal opening cause any pain or not. If this and the above symptoms are present than it is an ear canal infection. The doctor can also diagnosis infection by looking in the ear with the help of an instrument used for examining the ear. Further, a lab test can be done to identify the cause of the ear canal infection only if the first diagnose doesn’t give complete information to doctor.

 Treatment and medication of Ear Canal Infection

Treatment of ear canal infection can be done in different ways which are as follows:

Ear drops or sprays

A doctor usually prescribes ear drops or an ear spray for short time. These ear drops are antibiotic to reduce infection and inflammation. It may take one week for treatment. When the ear infection is due to bacteria or fungi ear drops which contain steroid are given.


Ear canal infection can be very sore and painful when the person touches the outside part of the ear. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are usually recommended to reduce the pain. Apart from painkillers keeping hot cloth near to the ear also help in reducing the pain.

Ear canal cleaning

Sometimes the doctor may clear the discharge from the ear canal. This is done so as ear drops work better and in more effective manner. Ear cleaning may be done after few days of treatment if the proper cure is not attained.

Oral antibiotics

If the infection is severe and also infection is around the ear then the doctor may give antibiotic tablets in addition to the ear drops. It is done to reduce the pain and inflammation more frequently.

Preventive measures of Ear Canal Infection

The person suffering from ear canal infection can reduce the symptoms by some preventive measures which are as follows:

  • Avoid getting any water in your ear until the infection gets cleared
  • Avoid swimming and showering for some time
  • Use cotton wool with Vaseline on the outside
  • If you think that eardrum is ruptured than avoid to insert anything into the ear
  • Gently rinse the ear bulb with the warm saline solution
  • Apply a warm washcloth or a heating pad
  • Avoid scratching inside the ear as this will worsen the condition
  • Don’t use earphones or any hearing aid
  • Keep shampoo and soap products out of your ear as these can cause infection
  • Try to keep the ear free of any excess wax


Ear canal infection is very common to occur but if left untreated can cause a serious problem. Long-term infection can cause narrowing of the ear canal in that case antibiotics will not be able to treat the infection. Here in this article, we provided you detailed information regarding ear canal infection which will help you to prevent yourself from infection. But, visiting doctor is highly recommended.

Ritu Saini

I am happy go lucky girl who believes in present and make the most of it. Visiting new places, painting and playing badminton are my hobbies. I am a simple living and thinking personality and very helping by nature.

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