If you've ever had a ruptured eardrum or had tubes put in your ears, see your doctor for any kind of earache. Otherwise, you can usually treat a mild case of swimmer's ear at home. But if you develop sudden, severe ear pain, or hearing loss, get to the doctor.
You'll also need a doctor's help if you have signs or symptoms of a punctured eardrum (blood, discharge from the ear, very intense pain followed by sudden relief). For swimmer's ear that doesn't respond to home remedies, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics.
Wear wax or silicone earplugs, available at most drugstores, to keep your ears dry when you're swimming or showering. The earplugs can be softened and shaped to fit snugly into your outer ear canal.
After you swim or shower, shake your head to remove any water that remains in your ears. Better yet, gently blow-dry your ears. Pull the flap of your ear to create an open airway to your ear canal. Set the hair dryer on the lowest setting and direct the airstream into your ear for 30 seconds. The nozzle of the hair dryer should be about 18 inches away.
Dilute a small amount of apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of distilled water and use 1 drop in each ear after you swim or shower. The vinegar is good for preventing bacterial and fungal infections as well as clearing them up.
Don't try to get all the wax out of your ears. In normal amounts, earwax coats the ear canal, which protects your inner ear from moisture.
Usually swimmer's ear is easy to treat and goes away, never to be heard from again. But not always. In about one percent of all cases, it comes back again no matter what you do to prevent a recurrence. Some particularly hard-to-treat bacteria has set up home in your ear, and all you can do is try to keep it under control. If you have this problem, be sure to keep your doctor informed. In rare cases, the infection can spread into nearby tissue around the ear (a severe condition called malignant otitis externa). People with diabetes and those with compromised immune systems are most susceptible.