How to keep water out of the ears during swimming, surfing, and other water sports

Spring is officially here. Air temperatures are rising, daylight hours are getting longer and the water at your favorite outdoor spots is getting warmer. Swimmers, surfers, divers, and everyone else who enjoys water sports feels the itch to get back to what they love. With water sports come the seasonal risks of these activities, one of which is ear infections (Swimmer’s Ear) caused by water in the ear canal and breeding bacteria. In this post, we explain the difference between swimmer’s ear, surfer’s ear, and barotrauma. We also give you some tips for keeping water out of your ears and give you an overview of AfterSwim in case you do get water in the ear.

Swimmer’s Ear, Surfer’s Ear, and Barotrauma, Oh My!

There are several ear-related health conditions that impact people who participate in water sports. Not all ear pain is swimmer’s ear! Here is the quick list with key characteristics of each ear-related health condition:

  • Swimmer’s Ear – This condition is caused by water that remains in the ear after you have been doing water sports. Bacteria starts to grow and eventually it causes an infection in your ear. Once the infection is started, you must go to the doctor to get yourself a course of antibiotics to stop the infection.
  • Surfer’s Ear – An abnormal bone growth that can occur within the ear canal. It is typically caused from exposure to cold wind and water, which triggers the bone surrounding the ear to develop lumps of bony growth that constrict the ear canal. This condition was named due to its prevalence in cold-water surfers, but it can occur with any activity that takes place in cold, wet, windy conditions including windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, and jet skiing.
  • Barotrauma – Barotrauma is injury that happens to the eardrum or inner ear due to water pressure at deep depths. Deep-water divers are potentially at risk for barotrauma. You can feel the pain immediately with this condition.

Note that swimmer’s ear is the only condition caused by water remaining in the ear after water sports.

Keeping water out of the ears

Thankfully, there are several methods available for preventing water from entering the inner ear in the first place.

  • Earplugs – inserted into the ear for inner ear protection
  • Swimming ear band – completely covers the outer ear and has a splash-proof seal
  • Swim caps – some caps come with “ear pockets” that provide a waterproof seal over the ears

While these are all viable solutions, some swimmers, surfers, and divers find them to be restricting or a nuisance. If this is your story, an alternative method is to remove water in ears after your watersport session is over. While you can try to shake the water out or jam the corner of your towel in your ear, these will not produce effective results. Do not stick a cotton swab in your ear, as these can be accidentally inserted too deep and cause impacted ear wax or eardrum damage.

Instead, try AfterSwim® Water Removal. This small device is contoured so the tip will reach far enough into the ear canal to absorb water, but cannot be over-inserted like a cotton swab. As you touch the tip of AfterSwim to the water blockage, it quickly absorbs it. You’ll see AfterSwim expand as it works.


A pack of 20 AfterSwim® can be purchased for only $5.99 on the Bionix Health at Home website.

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