Tips for Keeping Your Ears Healthy

In the realm of ear health, otitis externa and eczema represent two common conditions that can
cause discomfort and, in some cases, more serious complications. As an Ear, Nose, and Throat
(ENT) specialist, I have seen firsthand the impact these conditions can have on my patients’ quality
of life. However, with the right preventative measures, it is possible to significantly reduce the risk
of developing these ear issues. Here, we explore practical tips for maintaining ear health and
preventing otitis externa and eczema.

Understanding Otitis Externa and Eczema

Otitis externa, often referred to as “swimmer’s ear,” is an inflammation of the outer ear canal. It’s
typically caused by bacterial or fungal infections, which can arise from water remaining in the ear
after swimming, leading to a moist environment that fosters microbial growth. Eczema of the ear,
on the other hand, is a skin condition that can affect the outer ear, causing itching, redness, and
flaking skin.

Keeping Your Ears Dry

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to prevent otitis externa is to keep your ears dry. After
swimming or bathing, tilt your head to each side and gently pull on the earlobes to help water drain
out. You can also use a towel to carefully dry the outer part of your ears. For those prone to ear
infections, consider using over-the-counter ear drops that help to evaporate excess moisture.

Avoiding Cotton Buds

Although it may seem counterintuitive, using cotton buds (or Q-tips) to clean your ears can actually
do more harm than good. Inserting anything into your ear canal can push earwax deeper, leading to
impaction and potentially damaging the delicate skin of the ear canal, thereby increasing the risk of
infection and eczema. Instead, clean only the outer ear with a damp cloth and let your ear’s natural
cleaning mechanism do its work.

Managing Ear Hygiene

For individuals with eczema, managing skin health around the ears is crucial. Use hypoallergenic
products and avoid any known allergens that may trigger eczema flare-ups. If you wear hearing aids
or earphones regularly, ensure they are cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of moisture and

Ear plugs

For patients who have more severe or recurrent issues, you might need to consider wearing ear
plugs. The better they fit, the better they will keep water out. No particular variety of ear plug is
better than another, it is a case of trial and error. One other useful technique is to use a piece of
cotton wool mixed with some vaseline, which makes the cotton wool waterproof, and can be thrown
away afterwards, thereby ensuring a clean piece can be used each time. This is clearly not as
practical in the swimming pool as it is at home in the shower or bath!

Seeking Medical Advice

If you suspect you have otitis externa or ear eczema, it’s important to seek professional medical
advice. An London ENT specialist can provide a tailored treatment plan, which may include
prescription ear drops for infections or topical treatments for eczema. Early intervention can prevent
the condition from worsening and promote faster healing.


Preventing otitis externa and eczema involves a combination of keeping your ears dry, avoiding the
use of cotton buds, managing ear hygiene, and seeking professional advice when necessary. By
adopting these preventative measures, you can maintain healthy ears and avoid the discomfort
associated with these conditions. Remember, your ears are delicate structures that require proper
care and attention to stay healthy.