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Doc: water gets stuck in my ear after I shower / swim! What should I do?

Dear friends ...........TGIF! This week has once again seen lots of rainfall & ponding! Hope you are all well and keeping dry 😊

Recently, I was asked this question:

Doc: water always seems to get stuck in my ears after a shower or a swim. It is very annoying as I experience muffled hearing!

Q: What is the best way to clear the water from my ears?

Image Illustration to show how to use gravity to help drain the water from your ears (from Wiki How)

Here is a useful link to look up:


  • Dry your outer ear with a soft towel or cloth to absorb excess moisture. Do not stick the cloth into the canal.

  • Tip your head to one side to help water drain. Gently pull on your ear lobe. This will straighten your ear canal and help the water flow out.

  • Turn your blow dryer on the lowest setting and blow it toward your ear. Hold it at least a foot away. Also, turn the temperature setting down!

Image Illustration from WIki How on how to use the Hair Dryer to dry up water in your ears

  • Try over-the-counter drying drops.

One of many commercially available ear drops to help

dry the ear of moisture

  • To make drying eardrops at home, mix 1 part white vinegar to 1 part rubbing alcohol. Pour 1 teaspoon of the solution into each ear; tilt your head and let it drain out. These ascetic eardrops may irritate your skin. If you have eczema / sensitive skin, it is best to consult your GP or ENT Specialist before using such eardrops.

Image Illustration to show how to make your own drying drops at home (from Wiki How)

For myself, it's a matter of how to break the surface tension holding a thin layer of water on the ear drum which causes muffled hearing.

So I like to create a mini vacuum to move the fluid layer. Here are some ways you can test out.

How to create a vacuum in your ear:

Image illustrating how to clear water in your ear after a swim or shower (WikiHow)

  • Face the affected ear down on your palm and then use your palm to gently push in and out until water begins to come out. Don’t do this with the ear facing upwards or you may drive it farther back into the canal. This will create a suction-like vacuum that will draw the water in your ear towards your hand.

  • Alternatively, tilt your ear down, place your finger in it, and make a vacuum with your finger by pushing and pulling rapidly. In a moment the water should come out of your ear very quickly. Note to be careful as scratching your ear canal can cause infection. If your palm isn't working and you want to use your finger, then make sure that your finger is clean and that your nails are short. You do not want to introduce bacteria which may cause an ear infection.

  • Additionally during the "in" phase of the vacuum method it may be beneficial to gently massage the ear in a clockwise (or counter) motion while the air is tight. This may help irrigate the moist wax and free the moisture a little. This may be especially helpful if you are experiencing muffled hearing.

I do my ear clearing by occluding my outer ear canal with my index finger (not deep!), a few in & out pump like actions and then quickly flicking it out, which creates a vacuum suction effect! Well, it works well for me, and is very safe!

Remember: DO NOT DIG! Many people, I find, like to dig their ears, which can traumatise the ear canal skin and lead to infection.

What NOT to do:

  • Avoid cotton swabs or Q tips. They can pack ear wax and dirt even deeper into your ear canal, remove the wax that protects your ear, disrupt the natural bacteria in the ear canal, or irritate the thin skin of the ear canal.

  • Don’t stick your finger or fingernails into your ears. You can scratch the delicate skin of the ear canal.

  • Don’t use hydrogen peroxide or drying drops if you or your child has ear (grommet) tubes or if you have a ruptured eardrum (see previous blogpost).

Also, PREVENTION is best!

How to Keep Water Out of Your Ears

Sometimes the best offense is a good defence.

To stop moisture from building up in your ears to begin with, try these tips:

  • Remove in-ear air-pods / earbuds if you are sweaty.

  • Coat a cotton ball with petroleum jelly and slip it into your outer ears before taking a bath.

  • Block your ears with cotton balls when you use hair spray or hair dye at the salon.

  • Use earplugs and don a swim cap when you go swimming. You can now get customised ear plugs from your audiologist which are custom fit to your ears.

  • Have your doctor remove earwax if you think you have a problem with excessive wax build-up. Yes, wax protects your ears, but too much wax can trap water in the ear canal. Always check with your doctor. Never try to get it out yourself.

When to see your doctor:

You should see a doctor when you begin to feel itch / pain in addition to the water that is stuck in your ear. Also, know that an infection of the middle ear may feel like water getting stuck in your ear, and that will need to be treated as well. There is a good chance, though, that the pain that accompanies it may be a sign that the water has caused an irritation or infection that is known as Swimmer's Ear. If you have the following symptoms, then you should see a doctor immediately:

  • Yellow, yellow-green, pus-like, or foul smelling discharge from the ear

  • Ear pain that increases when you pull on the outer ear / ear lobe

  • A loss of hearing acuity

  • An itch inside the ear canal

If in doubt, please do consult your GP or ENT Specialist to check your ears who may perform aural toilet / micro-suction to clear any wax or debris. You may also be prescribed with ear drops to treat any infection if so discovered.

Have a restful weekend ahead 😊

Here are some handy references you can look up for more information:



Dr Euan Drawing.jpeg




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