How To Get Water Out Of Your Ear, According To A Doctor

Whether or not your little one is a water baby or a swimmer, pretty much everyone deals with water getting trapped in their ears at some point. Sure, it can come from a deep plunge in the pool, a tumble in the waves at the beach, or horsing around at the lake. But it can also come from something as simple as showering off after a long day in the surf or splish-splashing in the bathtub.

Anyone who’s experienced it knows that it’s not too bad *at first.* However, it can be frustrating and downright uncomfortable when the water doesn’t immediately come out. When water gets trapped in your ear, you experience a tickling sensation, which you may feel in your jawbone and throat, too. It can also affect your hearing, either muffling sounds or causing trouble hearing.

In most cases, the water will naturally drain on its own. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t, and that trapped water can lead to an ear infection in the external auditory canal, otherwise known as swimmer’s ear. The trapped water could also lead to a bacterial or fungal infection, which is obviously something no one wants. You want to get that water out of your ear or your child’s ear as soon as possible!

To avoid any infection and/or the annoying muffled sounds, Scary Mommy asked Jennie Stanford, M.D., FAAFP, DipABOM, a double-board-certified physician and medical contributor for Drugwatch, to share a few easy ways to get water out of the ears safely.

Will water come out of my ear naturally?

There are some super-easy tips and tricks to help the trapped water leave your ear naturally without any concoctions or medical assistance.

  • Lean on your side with a towel beneath your head. “Lying down where the affected ear is at the lowest point uses gravity to help drain the ear,” explains Dr. Stanford.
  • Tilt your head and gently jiggle your ear. “Moving the earlobe in all directions can allow trapped water to flow out,” says Stanford. Tug your earlobe as you lower your head towards one of your shoulders. You might also want to gently tilt your head from side to side with a gentle shake.
  • Press on your tragus. “The tragus is the piece of the ear next to the ear canal opening,” says Stanford. “Pressing the tragus to close the ear canal and then releasing it to reopen the ear canal creates a small amount of suction that can encourage water to flow out.”

None of that worked. What now?

Still need more help to get water out of your ear? Follow these methods using items you can find around your own home.

  • Use a warm compress. “Warm compresses have the potential to relax the tissues around and in the ear, allowing water to better drain out,” says Stanford.
  • Try steam. Alternatively, you can fill a large bowl with steaming water, lean over it with a towel draped over your head, and hold your face over the bowl for five to 10 minutes (being very careful not to touch or tip over the hot water). Then, tilt your ear sideways to drain.
  • Flush your ear. “A solution of alcohol and vinegar can help water evaporate,” explains Stanford. “Use only a few drops at a time, allow it to sit in the affected ear for about 30 seconds, and then turn the head to allow any remaining liquid to drain out with gravity.” The mixture should be 50/50 rubbing alcohol and white vinegar, and you should apply three to four drops max at a time.

What shouldn’t I do to get water out of the ear?

If none of the above tips, tricks, or gentle DIY methods work, you’ll want to avoid getting desperate and doing something that could ultimately cause more harm than good in the long run. For starters, avoid using a cotton swab, a finger, or any other small objects in your ears. Doing so might push the water deeper into your ear, injure your eardrum and ear canal, and cause a bacterial infection.

As Stanford points out, stubborn water in the ear could be a sign of an underlying issue. “If a buildup of earwax is present, it can block water from draining out of the ear canal,” she says. “This should be evaluated by a medical professional. Having the earwax removed by a skilled professional helps allow water to leave the ear canal.”

When else should you seek a doctor’s help?

So, it’s been a few days, and the water hasn’t budged. If no pain is present, you can try running through some of the techniques above again to see if time has helped move things along at all. If not, it’s always a smart idea to loop in a healthcare professional for further advice and possibly to assist in getting the water out — especially if you or your little one are in pain.

Emphasizes Stanford, “If there is pain when you tug on the earlobe, pain deep in the ear, fever, or drainage from the ear canal that is not clear, seek evaluation from a medical professional.”

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