What Swimming Pools Do to My Ears

Lipreading Mom and kids on a pool-free day

Lipreading Mom and kids on a pool-free day

Go back in time with me to the summer of 1983. My family owned an above-ground swimming pool that kept me and my sisters entertained most days. I was nine years old. It wasn’t the first time I had worn plugs to keep the water out of my ears. Wearing ear plugs with water was a necessity because of the chronic ear infections I’d lived with since babyhood. So that summer, when pool water managed to lodge itself inside my ears—despite the ear plugs—I had a difficult choice to make.

Keep swimming or stop?

Swimmer’s Ear and I Aren’t on Speaking Terms

Years later as an adult, an ENT (Ears, Nose, Throat Specialist) told me I had tiny ear canals prone to infections. This means that any kind of water has a difficult time draining from my ears.

As a toddler, tubes were surgically placed in my ears. And the ear infections continued. Antibiotic after antiobiotic, ear plug after ear plug, the water remained in those teeny-tiny ear canals. When I was fitted for hearing aids for the very first time at age 29, the specialist examining my ear said I had very narrow ear canals, almost like a child’s. Huh?

I’ve tried all kinds of medicines and home remedies to remove the fluid from my ears. Prescribed antibiotics (a variety of them), peroxide as a kid (ewww…), an over-the-counter product called Swimmer’s Ear (still no luck).

So I Decided Not to Swim This Summer

Like most kids, my three children love going to the pool. Over the years, we’ve logged many hours splashing around in chlorinated H2O.

Two summers ago, after months of teaching my young daughter how to doggy paddle, she finally swam the pool’s deep end. Alone. Not long after this momentous occasion, one of my other children (who will remain nameless) splashed water into my right ear. Hours later and even after the use of medication, that ear still throbbed.

You see, not only is swimmer’s ear painful. It makes for impossible listening situations. Hearing aids become useless because the ear fluid still muffles sound.

This summer, I made the choice to let my kids frolic in the pool while I watch them poolside. This isn’t any easy choice, because I love spending hands-on time with my family. But when it comes right down to it, I can’t afford to have any more pool water living inside my ears for days. I’ve got to keep my ears as healthy as possible.

A Serious Health Issue – How to Get Help

Here’s an interesting fact: Having hearing loss or ear infections due to swimmer’s ear is the number-one reason people ‘find’ my blog, LipreadingMom.com. They are scared and looking for answers. I think swimmer’s ear and hearing loss is a huge problem for kids and adults worldwide. If you or someone you know has chronic problems with their ears because of swimming, consider visiting a doctor who specializes in helping/treating the inner ear.

Walk In My Pool Shoes…What Would You Do?

Readers—I wonder if your ears can relate to mine. What steps have or would you take to keep pool water out of them? Share your thoughts below.


17 thoughts on “What Swimming Pools Do to My Ears

  1. I would not agree to have ear tunes inserted in my child’s ears…ear tubes themselves can cause all kinds of problems, including infections. I would bend over (head to feet) while between two fans so water drains out and air circulates till ears dry.
    I would not miss swimming with my children for anything….they grow up so fast.
    I would make memories while I can.
    Baltimore, MD

  2. I can relate to you. I love the pool, river, lake and any water. I swam all the time as a child but it also caused infections and tubes, many of them, 13 sets I have had. One thing I had as a child was an audiologist made me custom ear plugs to keep all water out. That might be something to look at. Only thing it is hard to hear in a pool setting anyways and they made me profoundly deaf but at least I could swim. Now with my kids I go to the pool and play with them but there is no hearing them but we have tons of fun. Good luck to you. You may have to be the mom on the side that is the judge of jumps, dives and and other fun things kids do. My kids love that when I hold up my hands and give them a 9 or a 10 on their crazy jumps.

  3. Just before entering junior high my parents bought a house with an in ground pool. I quickly took swimming lessons along with my sister. We spent hours and hours each day swimming. I only recall having swimmer’s ear once. And it was PAINFUL! It felt like bombs bursting in my ears and took forever to clear up. Fortunately for me I didn’t have it happen again nor did I have to give up swimming.

    I can certainly understand your reasons for not swimming.

  4. My kids are now grown, so I can only remember those summer days…..and honestly miss them. As you mentioned, hearing aids hate water, perspiration and humidity. Can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been to the hearing aid office over the years with that one! With a severe hearing loss, I “strategize” about these situations…in other words, when/where do I want/need to hear and where can I go “aidless”……Several years ago, I bought some of those hear aid sweat case dealies that side over my aids. Ugly yes, but saves me from constantly taking them off and drying them during such times. Another reader mentioned getting some swimmer’s ear molds from an audiologist. Also a good idea. Ear infections are painful and each time I get one I worry about losing what little hearing I have left. Enjoy your kids and happy summer!

  5. You can’t keep me out of water. I can get ear infections out but usually I can get the water out of my ears. I put my finger in the canal and jiggle it hard which seems to do the trick. Your audiologist should sell custom ear molds for the pool to keep water out.

  6. I swim with my head above water, and my kids know not to splash me. It’s been a good balance so far! It’s just difficult not knowing if someone is trying to talk to me, I’m sure I’ve come across as rude or ditzy. But I’m learning to toughen up, and just enjoy myself and my kids.

  7. I’m a swimmer, but, fortunately, I have very little problem with drainage.

    Only time it drives me crazy is in the morning, when, if I don’t dry my ears completely after my shower, when I put the hearing aids in, the sound vibrations tickle!

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