You may have experienced that feeling of water trapped in your ear after swimming or taking a shower. It can be quite uncomfortable, and you may feel the need to relieve the pressure by tilting your head or pulling on your ear. Although it is usually not harmful, it can sometimes lead to infection. In this article, we will discuss how long water can stay in your ear and what you can do to get rid of it.
The Eustachian Tube
The Eustachian tube is a small passageway that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. This tube equalizes pressure between the middle ear and the outside world. It also drains fluid from the middle ear.
The Eustachian tube is normally closed, but it opens when we swallow, yawn or chew. This action allows air to enter the middle ear and keep the pressure equal on both sides of the eardrum.
You may have experienced this opening of the Eustachian tube when you’ve been on an airplane and your ears feel “popped” or when you go up or down a hill in an elevator and your ears feel “clogged.”
The Eustachian tube can become blocked due to allergies, a cold, or sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses). When this happens, fluid can build up in the middle ear and cause pain, pressure and hearing problems.
Blockages in the Eustachian Tube
If water does happen to get in your ear, it usually doesn’t stay there for long. The ear is designed to protect itself from foreign substances, and it does this by producing earwax. Earwax is made up of dead skin cells, hair, and oils, and it’s secreted by glands in the ear canal. The wax traps dirt and prevents it from reaching the eardrum, and it also has antifungal and antibacterial properties. When you clean your ears, you’re actually just removing the excess wax that has built up on the outside of the ear canal.
The earwax will eventually make its way to the opening of the ear canal, where it will either fall out or be washed away. However, if there is too much wax buildup, it can block the ear canal and cause problems. This can happen if you clean your ears too often, or if you use objects like cotton swabs to try to remove the wax yourself. If there is a blockage in the ear canal, it can cause hearing loss, pain, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and dizziness.
How to remove water from your ear
Water in the ear can cause discomfort, but it usually goes away on its own within a few days. However, there are some things you can do to speed up the process.
There are three main ways to remove water from your ear:
- Tilt your head to the side and pull your outer ear gently backwards and upwards. This will help straighten out your ear canal and allow the water to drain out.
- Use a bulb syringe to suction the water out of your ear. Fill the syringe with warm water and insert the tip into your ear. Gently squeeze the bulb to suction out the water.
- Make a gravity drain by lying down on your side with the affected ear facing up. Use a dropper to put 3-4 drops of warm olive oil, almond oil, or distilled vinegar into your ear. Stay in this position for 5-10 minutes so that the oil can lubricate your ear canal and help the water drain out. Then sit up and tilt your head to the side to let the fluid drains out
To prevent water from getting in your ears in the first place, try the following tips:
- Wear earplugs. You can purchase earplugs at most drugstores. Look for earplugs made of soft silicone or foam, which will be more comfortable for you to wear.
- Use a shower cap. If you’re showering, put on a shower cap to keep water out of your hair and ears.
- Dry your ears after swimming. When you get out of the pool, ocean, or lake, use a towel to dry your ears and head off immediately. You can also try using a hair dryer on the lowest setting to dry your ears after swimming.