Why Is Water Stuck in My Ear?

How To Stop Water Pooling in Your Ear Canal
Last update on Mar, 01, 2024

Learn how to get relief from water trapped in your ear canal.

No matter your age, most of us are familiar with the sensation of water stuck in the ear. Though uncomfortable, it's common among children and adults, especially during the summer when swimming and other water-related activities are in high demand.

If ignored, water trapped in the ear canal can become a serious problem—from mild irritation to severe pain and even infection.

In this article, we'll delve into why water gets stuck in the ear (focusing on a few obvious and not-so-obvious reasons) and share tips and techniques to help you find fast relief.

How Does Water Get Stuck in the Ear?

There are many reasons why we experience water stuck in the ear.

The most common culprits include:

  • Swimming
  • Bathing
  • Showering

In the outer ear there is a curve of the ear canal toward the ear drum.  Closer to the ear drum there is a small slope in the bony structure of the ear canal that protects the ear drum.  These curves and bends can cause water to become trapped.  Some individuals may also be more susceptible to this issue due to the shape and narrowing of their ear canal or the amount of ear wax they produce.

In other cases, water may become trapped due to an underlying medical condition.

Woman with ear pain

Water in the Ear: Medical Conditions

Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer's ear, also known as otitis externa, is a painful condition when the outer ear and ear canal become inflamed, irritated, or infected.

The condition usually happens when water or moisture gets trapped in the ear canal, creating a damp environment that promotes the growth of bacteria or fungi.

Some common symptoms of swimmer's ear include:

  • Ear pain
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Discharge

If left untreated, it can lead to temporary hearing loss or damage to bones and cartilage within the middle ear.

Otitis Media

Otitis media is an infection or inflammation of the middle ear. A virus or bacteria is typically the cause, and it often occurs in children, but adults can develop it, too.

Common symptoms of otitis media include:

  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Difficulty hearing

A feeling of water or fullness in the ear is especially common with Otitis media as your Eustachian tube, which drains fluid from the middle ear, becomes blocked due to inflammation or swelling caused by the infection. 

Surfer's Ear

Surfer's Ear is a type of exostoses, a condition where bony growths form in the ear canal after repeated exposure to cold water. The presence of these growths can make it difficult for water to drain out of the ear.

If left untreated, it may lead to infection and hearing loss.

Symptoms of Water Stuck in the Ear

Whether water gets trapped in the ear due to swimming or a middle ear infection, symptoms may include a feeling of fullness in the ear, muffled hearing, and sometimes mild pain or discomfort.

You may also experience ringing in the ear (i.e., tinnitus) or a sense of dizziness or vertigo

What If Water Is Stuck in Ear for Days?

If left untreated, water trapped in your ear canal can lead to an infection or inflammation, which can cause more severe symptoms to develop, such as fever, ear discharge, and intense pain.

Home Remedies for Water Stuck in Ear

If you experience water trapped in your ears from swimming or bathing, try these helpful home remedies.

  • Create a mixture of equal parts rubbing alcohol and vinegar and put a few drops into the affected ear. Tilt your head to the side and let the solution sit for a few minutes before draining it.
  • Talk to a provider or pharmacist about recommended over-the-counter ear drops designed to remove water from the ear. You can also ask if it's safe to use hydrogen peroxide to remove any ear wax buildup that may be preventing water from draining. 

Can You Remove Water Stuck In the Ear Naturally

If you experience water in the ear from swimming or bathing, you may be able to find relief with a few natural techniques:

  • Grasp the affected earlobe gently with your thumb and index finger, pulling it downward and then upward. Repeat this motion several times to help dislodge any trapped water in the ear canal.
  • Chew gum or yawn to help open up the Eustachian tube and allow the trapped water to drain out naturally.
  • Apply a warm compress to the affected ear for a few minutes to help open up the Eustachian tube and promote drainage.
  • Tilt your head to the affected side and gently dry the outer ear with a soft cloth.

Just remember to never stick anything in your ear, such as Q-tips®, to remove water, as this can push it further into the ear canal and potentially cause damage.

When To See a Doctor

If you experience pain, discharge, or water does not come out on its own after a few hours, contact your doctor.

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Ear exam

How to Prevent Trapped Water

If you or your kids are planning to make a splash this summer. follow these tips to prevent water from getting trapped in the ear canal.

  • Use earplugs or a swim cap to prevent water from entering your ears while swimming.
  • Use a blow dryer on the lowest setting to gently dry your ears after swimming or showering.
  • Avoid swimming in polluted or dirty water, which can increase the risk of ear infections. 

Hearing Health Resources

Stay connected to our hearing health blog to receive more information and lifestyle tips on prioritizing your hearing health journey.

If you're interested in scheduling a hearing evaluation but are unsure whether your insurance plan provides coverage, you can use our online tool to check your benefits. Our team will guide you through your coverage options and assist you in finding a hearing care provider in your area.

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