Getting Water Out Of Ear

Bear in mind that fluid in your ear that doesn’t drain may actually be earwax, says Dr. Blythe. In this case, it’s time to see your doctor.

How to Get Water Out of Your Ears

You just finished a swim or shower. Do your ears ever feel clogged? Are sounds muffled? You may have water in your ears.

You can even get sweat trapped in your ears from wearing earbuds. If you don’t take care of it soon, you can end up with an infection known as otitis externa, or swimmer’s ear. When water sits in your ear canal, bacteria that live there all the time can multiply and cause an infection.

But you have to get the water out safely. Do it wrong, and you might boost your odds of swimmer’s ear. If you have a ruptured eardrum or tubes in your ears, you have to be extra careful about how you dry your ears.

Dos for Getting Water Out of Your Ears

If you have water in your ears, take these steps to get it out safely.

  • Dry your outer ear with a soft towel or cloth. Don’t stick the cloth into the canal.
  • Tip your head to one side to help water drain. Gently pull on your earlobe. This will straighten your ear canal and help the water flow.
  • Turn your blow dryer on the lowest setting and blow it toward your ear. Hold it at least a foot away.
  • Try over-the-counter drying drops.
  • To make drying drops 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.

Don’ts for Getting Water Out of Your Ears

Using the wrong methods for getting water out of your ears can scratch your ear canal or impact earwax in the canal. Don’t use these methods for drying out your ears, or you will be more — not less — likely to get an infection.

  • Avoid cotton swabs. They can pack earwax and dirt down in 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 in 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 tubes or if you have a ruptured eardrum.

How to Spot an Infection

Look out for these symptoms of swimmer’s ear — just in case the drying tips didn’t work:

  • Itching in your ear canal
  • Redness inside your ear
  • Discomfort or pain that gets worse when you pull on your outer ear or push on the little bump in front of your ear
  • Clear, odorless fluid that drains from your ear canal

If you do have these symptoms, your doctor may prescribe eardrops. The drops will kill the bacteria or fungus causing the infection and will ease your pain, swelling, and inflammation.

How to Keep Water Out

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. To stop moisture from building up in your ears to begin with, try these tips.

  • Remove earbuds if you’re sweaty.
  • Coat a cotton ball with petroleum jelly and slip it into your outer ears during a bath.
  • Block your ears with cotton balls when you use hair spray or hair dye.
  • Use earplugs and a swim cap when you go into the water.
  • Have your doctor remove earwax if you think you have a problem with wax buildup. Yes, it protects your ears, but too much can trap water in the canal. Always check with your doctor. Never try to get it out yourself.
  • Use hydrogen peroxide with your doctor’s approval. If you have wax buildup, they may suggest you clean your ears with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. But you can’t do this if you have tubes in your ears. Put about half of an ear dropper full in your ear. Let it bubble up. Then turn your head to the side, gently pull on the top of your ear, and let it drain.

Show Sources

Mayo Clinic: Swimmer’s Ear: Overview,” “Swimmer’s Ear: Self-management,” “Swimmer’s Ear: Symptoms and Causes,” “Swimmer’s Ear: Treatment.”

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American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery: “Swimmer’s Ear.”

Nemours KidsHealth: “Infections: Swimmer’s Ear.”

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: “Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa).”

Cleveland Clinic: “How to Keep Swimmer’s Ear From Ruining Your Summer.”

Children’s Hospital St. Louis: “Swimmer’s Ear vs. Ear Infection: What’s the Difference?

12 Ways to Get Water Out of Your Ear

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Remove excess water from your ears with methods like blow drying, using different types of ear drops, performing the Valsalva maneuver, and even adding more water.

Although swimming is often the cause, you can get water trapped in your ear canal from any exposure to water. If this happens, you may feel a tickling sensation in your ear. This feeling may extend to your jawbone or throat. You may also not be able to hear as well or only hear muffled sounds.

Usually, the water drains out on its own. If it doesn’t, the trapped water may lead to an ear infection. This type of ear infection in the external auditory canal of your outer ear is called swimmer’s ear.

It’s not hard to get water out of your ear on your own. These 12 tips can help.

If water gets trapped in your ear, you can try several at-home remedies for relief:

1. Jiggle your earlobe

This first method may shake the water out of your ear right away.

Gently tug or jiggle your earlobe while tilting your head in a downward motion toward your shoulder.

You can also try shaking your head from side to side while in this position.

2. Make gravity do the work

With this technique, gravity should help the water drain from your ear.

Lie on your side for a few minutes, with your head on a towel to absorb the water. The water may slowly drain out of your ear.

3. Create a vacuum

This method will create a vacuum that may draw the water out.

  1. Tilt your head sideways, and rest your ear onto your cupped palm, creating a tight seal.
  2. Gently push your hand back and forth toward your ear in a rapid motion, flattening it as you push and cupping it as you pull away.
  3. Tilt your head down to allow the water to drain.

4. Use a blow dryer

The heat from a blow dryer can help evaporate the water inside your ear canal.

  1. Turn on your blow dryer to its lowest setting.
  2. Hold the hair dryer about a foot away from your ear and move it in a back-and-forth motion.
  3. While tugging down on your earlobe, let the warm air blow into your ear.

5. Try alcohol and vinegar eardrops

Alcohol can help evaporate the water in your ear. It also works to eliminate the growth of bacteria, which can help prevent infection. If the trapped water occurs due to earwax buildup, the vinegar may help remove it.

  1. Combine equal parts alcohol and vinegar to make eardrops.
  2. Using a sterile dropper, apply three or four drops of this mixture into your ear.
  3. Gently rub the outside of your ear.
  4. Wait 30 seconds, and tilt your head sideways to let the solution drain out.

Don’t use this method if you have any of these conditions:

  • a middle ear infection
  • a perforated eardrum
  • tympanostomy tubes (eardrum tubes)

6. Use hydrogen peroxide eardrops

Hydrogen peroxide solutions can help clear debris and earwax, which may be trapping water in your ear. You can find eardrops online that use a combination of urea and hydrogen peroxide, called carbamide peroxide, to unclog earwax in the ears.

Don’t use this method if you have any of these conditions:

  • signs of injury or infection such as pain, swelling, warmth, drainage, bleeding from ear
  • a middle ear infection
  • a perforated eardrum
  • tympanostomy tubes (eardrum tubes)

7. Try olive oil

Olive oil can also help prevent infection in your ear, as well as repel water out.

  1. Warm some olive oil in a small bowl. Place a few drops on your inner wrist to test the temperature.
  2. Using a clean dropper, place a few drops of the oil into the affected ear.
  3. Lie on your other side for about 10 minutes, and then sit up and tilt the ear downward. The water and oil should drain out.

8. Try more water

This technique may sound illogical, but it can actually help draw water out of your ear.

  1. Lying on your side, fill the affected ear with water using a clean dropper.
  2. Wait 5 seconds and then turn over, with the affected ear facing down. All of the water should drain out.

9. Take over-the-counter medication

A number of over-the-counter (OTC) eardrops are also available. Most are alcohol-based and can help reduce moisture in your outer ear canal, as well as kill bacteria or remove earwax and debris.

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The 5 Best Ways to Get Water Out of Your Ear

Close view of a boy

Getting water in your outer ear canal may be irritating, but it’s rarely serious.

Symptoms are similar to having wax in your ear — muffled hearing (although your own voice sounds louder) and a feeling that your ear is stopped up — but you’ll know it’s water because you’ve just been swimming, bathing, showering or even sweating profusely, says William R. Blythe, MD, an otolaryngologist in private practice in Opelika, Alabama.

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The trick is to get it out quickly. If water is stuck in your ear for days, it could lead to an infection called swimmer’s ear (otitis externa). Here’s how to drain your ears at home quickly.

1. Shake Your Head

The majority of folks can get water out of their ear just by shaking their head after they get out of the pool, tub or shower.

“For the most part it’s easily dislodgeable,” says Rupali Shah, MD, associate professor in the department of otolaryngology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “Tilt your ear over, sometimes jiggle your ear or pat it. It’s almost like you need to break the tension just to get it to fall out.”

2. Enlist Gravity and Time

Tilt your head to the side so your ear faces down toward the ground.

“Gravity is your best friend,” Dr. Blythe says. “Turn to the side and give it a little bit of time. A lot of times, particularly if the water is cool, when it gets to body temperature, it will just drain out.”

You can also pull your ear away from your head (gently) to move things along. “This straightens the ear canal and may help water drain out,” Dr. Blythe says. Sometimes massaging your outer ear can help drain the canal, too, he adds.

3. Wipe Your Ear With Your Finger and a Washcloth or Tissue

But never with a Q-tip or other implement like a bobby pin or paper clip.

“It’s perfectly fine to put your finger or washcloth or a tissue down as far as your finger will go,” says Dr. Blythe. “[That way], you cannot get very deep into the canal and you won’t hurt anything.”

Putting anything else in there runs the risk of severely damaging your ear.

4. Use a Solution of Alcohol and Vinegar

According to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, applying a solution that’s equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar can get rid of the water. The alcohol dries while the vinegar, which is similar in acidity to the ear, prevents your ear form getting infected, explains Dr. Blythe.

A medicine dropper is the easiest way to apply a couple of drops, he adds.

Over-the-counter ear drops from your local pharmacy are typically a similar mixture of alcohol and vinegar, says Dr. Blythe.

Warning

Don’t use this method if there’s any chance you have a hole in your eardrum, say from an impact like falling while water skiing, or if you have a history of ear trouble. The solution will burn your ear, Dr. Blythe says.

5. Try a Solution of Vinegar and Water

Kristen Angster, MD, a specialist in the department of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, recommends a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water (ideally distilled water). “The vinegar is the right pH [acidity] for the ear canal, so it will help dry it without overly drying, which alcohol can do,” she explains.

The trick is that the solution has to be body temperature, otherwise it’ll make you dizzy. “Ideally, you want to sit down in a bathtub so you don’t fall if you do get dizzy,” says Dr. Angster. “Mix it in a cup and draw it out with an infant medicine syringe from a drug store. Test the mixture on your wrist, then tilt your ear down towards the ground and gently shoot it up into the ear.”

Be sure the syringe tip isn’t too long so it doesn’t hurt your ear.

What About Q-tips?

No, no, no to Q -tips or cotton swabs in your ear. The same goes for anything else “smaller than your elbow” inserted into your ear, Dr. Shah says. These could severely damage your ear.

“Some people have really short ear canals, which means the eardrums are much closer to the surface than you realize,” says Dr. Angster. “And when you put any foreign body in your ear, it packs the wax down deeper and makes it harder to remove.”

What About Peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide or peroxide-based drops are typically used to remove earwax when it’s blocking the ear canal, says Dr. Blythe. It’s not recommended for water, and it can change the pH level of the ear, setting the stage for infections.

Even to remove wax, Dr. Angster dissuades patients from putting it in their ear at home. “If it gets caught in the wax, it can get pretty irritating,” she says. “You can dissolve the wax but there’s no way to get it out and I wouldn’t do it for just water.”

Bear in mind that fluid in your ear that doesn’t drain may actually be earwax, says Dr. Blythe. In this case, it’s time to see your doctor.

What About Suction?

Theoretically, you could cup your hand around your ear to create a suction or vacuum effect, tilt your head and push your hand to and from the ear to draw out the water.

In reality, this might be difficult to do. “It’s pretty hard to get a good seal on the ear canal, so it’s probably not going to really help,” says Dr. Angster.

What About Blow Drying?

Dr. Shah doesn’t recommend it. “I would worry more about someone burning their ear with a hair dryer,” she says.

If you do decide to go this route, the Mayo Clinic recommends using the lowest heat setting and holding it at least one foot from your ear.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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