Swimmer’s Ear and Chiropractic

I can’t hear properly as I have swimmer’s ear! Not because I swim a lot – but because I use cotton buds to dry my ears after a shower. I think we all know that nothing smaller than a football should ever be inserted into our ear canals but hey I thought – it will be fine.


I thought I would share my sorry tale with you so you might avoid the same problem. Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal, when bacteria invade the skin in the canal which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head. It is called swimmer’s ear because it is often brought on by water that remains in your ear after swimming, creating a moist environment that aids bacterial growth.


However, if you push a cotton bud into the canal a bit too hard – you can irritate the lining of the ear canal and you leave yourself open to infection. That happened to me – itchy ear canal became painful ear canal and then I couldn’t hear – in both ears. I saw three doctors – each one gave me a different diagnosis and a different treatment – none of which actually helped me as it turns out. However, this post is not as much about my ear problem but about the fact that it highlighted the need to make the correct diagnosis in order to administer the correct treatment if you are going to sort out a health problem.


Types of infection that may cause hearing problems include:


Infection of the ear canal which is  “swimmer’s ear,” when swelling, or buildup (exudate) in the ear canal may block sound from moving to the middle ear. Hearing usually returns on its own after the infection goes away.

Middle ear infection when swelling and pus may block sound from moving to the inner ear. Hearing usually returns on its own after the infection goes away but sometimes antibiotics may be needed. And few ear infections cause permanent damage.


Fluid in the space behind the eardrum. This may occur with or without infection. Fluid buildup may distort sound or block its passage to the inner ear. Fluid behind the eardrum usually clears on its own, although the eardrum may burst if the fluid in the middle ear becomes infected.


Viral infection or allergies. The viruses that cause this type of hearing loss are thought to be the same ones that cause upper respiratory tract infections such as ‘flu or a cold. Hearing may not return, may partially return, or may completely return.


Lots of potential causes, all requiring different treatment approaches.


It also highlights an important aspect of chiropractic. The first documented spinal manipulation was of a man who had lost his hearing and was treated by a chiropractor and his hearing was restored. So let’s try chiropractic treatment for my hearing loss! But hang on – what was his diagnosis? It cannot be that  hearing loss can be advertised as being able to be cured by chiropractic. Neither can every joint pain be relieved by chiropractic care.


I could have chiropractic treatment for ever and that would not necessarily help my self inflicted hearing problem. However, if I had a nerve problem and chiropractic treatment managed to change pressure on that nerve, it could be that my hearing might be restored.


Similarly, if you have back pain and it is due to joint strain/sprain and you have manipulation of the area that makes that joint function as it should again then the chances are you are going to get rid of the back pain. If you have back pain that has arisen as a result of a kidney infection, then you need to resolve the kidney infection to resolve that pain, not have your back manipulated.


It is always essential to get the correct diagnosis, which is what we try to do at the Avenue Clinic so that the chiropractic care you receive is as appropriate as possible for your problem. Also if we make a diagnosis but after a few treatments you are not improving, we will not just keep on and on treating you, but we will find out why you are not getting better and either change our treatment or refer you to another specialist as necessary.