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Swimmer's Ear: A Diver's Home Remedy for Your Consideration

Bottom Line: Every once in a while we run across a solution worth sharing. So is the case with this home remedy for Swimmer’s Ear: A solution of 50% hydrogen peroxide, 25% isopropyl alcohol, and 25% white vinegar.


If you happened upon this page, you are likely in search of a home remedy for what is commonly called "Swimmer’s Ear." This article is not about pressure-related ear issues or equalization problems; nor is it necessarily about preventing Swimmer’s Ear; it is about how we successfully dealt with a Swimmer’s Ear infection while diving abroad without medical support. We are not medical professionals. The solution that worked for us may be in complete contrast with what your personal physician might recommend. As always, consult your physician if available... but there were no doctors available for us, hence this story!


The Longer Story

About a week into a two-week diving trip abroad, one of our ATA/BAR DIVERS’ members started suffering from outer ear canal pain, which was intense at times. The pain radiated below and behind the ear and the canal never seemed to fully dry. The diver was convinced the problem was not associated with the eardrum, the middle ear, or the Eustachian Tube, as equalizing during dives was not compromised. Professional medical treatment was not an option.


First: The diver made sure there was no ear wax blocking the ear canal by using an over-the-counter ear wax removal kit (liquid solution and a bulb aspirator) and flushing the ear.


Second: The diver tried a popular over-the-counter product made for drying out the ear canal. Made from 95% isopropyl alcohol and 5% glycerin, these drops only caused an intense burning sensation that could not be tolerated. (In hindsight, a product like this is not intended for use during an active ear infection.)


Third: The diver filled the ear canal with hydrogen peroxide several times over two days. While the foam created by this treatment was quite the spectacle, the peroxide did not alleviate symptoms.


Finally: A wise man of the sea offered his “proven remedy” for prevention and intervention of external ear infections: A solution of 50% hydrogen peroxide, 25% isopropyl alcohol, and 25% white vinegar. Within two days, all symptoms of Swimmer's Ear vanished!


Post Analysis

  1. Before moving forward with a home remedy for Swimmer’s Ear, make sure your condition is not something worse, like barotrauma. Swimmer’s Ear (otitis externa) symptoms are well defined on this Google page.

  2. Being an over-user of Q-tips within the external ear canal doesn’t help matters. Ear wax is there for a purpose; cleaning the ears in this manner can lead to abrasions and makes the ear more susceptible to infection. See the Time Magazine article: Should I Use Q-tips to Clean My Ears?

  3. Preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of contracting Swimmer’s Ear can include a variety of home remedy solutions. Our Wise Man of the Sea recommends his solution of 50% hydrogen peroxide, 25% isopropyl alcohol, and 25% white vinegar.

  4. We will be packing this solution on every dive trip and will be using it to prevent ear infections rather than having to deal with an active infection!



Diver's Ears: Equalizing Help


Are you challenged with equalizing your ears? You are not alone! There are several online information sources you might find helpful:


  • The Diver’s Complete Guide to the Ear by the Divers Alert Network. Among other things, the guide discusses different techniques for equalizing ears. If these written instructions leave you a bit confused, check out...

  • The Healthy-U – Diver’s Ear: Under Pressure by Edmond Kay, M.D., University of Washington School of Medicine. A veteran diver himself, Dr. Kay demonstrates equalization techniques and examines several divers’ ears. The helpful and interesting six-part YouTube series is about an hour long. To go directly to the discussion on equalization, click here. If you are looking for a shorter time commitment...

  • Dr. Frans Cronjé with DAN Southern Africa posted this 14-minute YouTube video which offers some interesting tips and illustrations.

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