Otitis Externa (Swimmer's Ear) | Causes & Risk Factors


What causes swimmer's ear?

Several things can make swimmer's ear more likely, including the following:

  • If you swim or shower a lot, too much water can get into your ears. Water removes the protective earwax, which makes it easier for germs and fungus to grow.
  • Cleaning your ears can remove the protective wax layer and lead to infection.
  • If you injure the skin in the ear canal by putting your finger or some object (such as a cotton swab or a pencil) in your ear, an infection can develop in the canal.
  • Skin conditions (such as psoriasis) that occur in other parts of the body can also occur in the ear canal and cause an infection.
  • Bacteria from products you use in your hair (such as hairspray or hair dye) can get trapped in the ear canal and cause an infection.


See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/16
Created: 01/99