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5 Summertime Tips for Healthy Ears

Experts explain how to avoid ear problems that are triggered by everything from swimming to loud music.

No. 2: Don't Go Overboard Cleaning Your Ears

Earwax may look unsightly, but it is designed to protect the ear. When it migrates to the outside, you can clean it off with a washcloth.

"Every package of [swabs] says not to insert into the ear!" cautions Rosenfeld. "Sticking something in your ear canal to get out wax can push the wax farther in and compact it."

If your ear is impacted with ear wax, see your doctor who can safely clear it out for you.

No. 3: How to Treat Swimmer's Ear

Maddern says you might want to make sure your child's ears are not packed with wax and debris before the summer-long pool dunking starts. "If there is a lot of stuff down there and it is not addressed and warmth and bacteria-filled water is added," he says, "swimmer's ear can result."

Swimmer's ear is caused by any number of common bacteria found in lakes, hot tubs, and pools. In many cases, the infection gets going from a trauma in the ear canal – possibly a nick or scratch.

Swimmer's ear starts out as itching and maybe some soreness inside the ear but soon becomes severely painful and swollen, especially if you press on the little flap next to the ear opening.

"The doctor," Rosenfeld says, "may clean everything out. If the ear is swollen shut at this point, he or she may also put in a wick, which is a cellulose sponge that will carry the prescription drops to the infection."

Rosenfeld does not recommend that you use earplugs in the pool, however. "These can also cause trauma in the ear canal," he points out.

People who wear hearing aids are especially prone to swimmer's ear, according to Rosenfeld. "If you get a case, leave out the hearing aids for awhile," he advises.

No. 4: Pierce Only in the Lobe

Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, is co-director of laser surgery at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, and teaches at Johns Hopkins University.

She tells WebMD that she worries about people neglecting to put sunblock on their ears. "The ears are very sensitive to sun," she exclaims. "Don't forget them."

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