Common Summertime Ear Problems: Why Your Sinuses are Worse in the Summer
Many of us overlook our ears’ importance until it becomes a problem. However, during summer, the chances of experiencing ear issues are higher. Engaging in activities like swimming, traveling, and spending time outdoors can all contribute to the need for medical attention for summertime ear problems. Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of our ears’ health and to seek appropriate medical attention when necessary.
Summertime Ear Problems: My Sinuses are Worse in the Summer!
During the warmer months, doctors commonly encounter a variety of ear problems. They often include:
According to experts, boisterous events such as music festivals and fireworks displays can result in permanent hearing loss. The loud sound waves produced during events can permanently damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss that cannot be reversed. It is recommended to take preventive measures such as wearing earplugs during concerts and maintaining a safe distance from the speakers to minimize the risk of harm to your hearing. Plus, allergens and pollutants are often kicked up, which can have a negative effect on your respiratory health.
Changes in air pressure:
It is not uncommon for individuals to experience ear pain during airplane ascents and descents. This discomfort is primarily caused by the changes in air pressure that occur during these times. As for babies, their Eustachian tubes are often the culprit behind their cries during flights. You can take some measures to alleviate discomfort or pain during air travel, such as chewing gum, swallowing frequently, or using special earplugs designed for flights.
If you have a cold, allergies, or congestion, it can make your Eustachian tubes swell and trap fluid, leading to pressure and pain. While it is more common in children due to their smaller Eustachian tubes, adults can also experience it, which could result in a perforated eardrum in extreme cases. You can try chewing gum or swallowing during takeoff and landing to prevent ear clogging or pain on planes. This naturally opens up the Eustachian tubes, allowing the air in your middle ear to equalize.
Engaging in playful activities in aquatic environments can lead to the development of swimmer’s ear, a type of skin infection that occurs in the ear canal due to bacterial and fungal growth in damp and warm conditions. It would be best never to use a cotton swab to dry your ears after swimming, as it can scratch the ear canal and cause infections or even rupture your eardrum. When experiencing symptoms of swimmer’s ear, consult a doctor to determine if the condition is fungal or bacterial and receive the appropriate treatment.
Allergies and summer colds:
Summer colds and allergies can cause ear infections, not just in children. While kids are at higher risk due to smaller and flatter Eustachian tubes, healthy adults can also experience acute otitis media.
Your Eustachian tubes can swell and prevent proper fluid drainage when you have a sinus infection, cold, allergies, or anything else that causes excess mucus. This can lead to a bacterial or viral infection. Symptoms may include localized pain, fluid discharge from the ear, or temporary hearing loss. Ear infections may resolve on their own in a week or two. Pain relief using ibuprofen or acetaminophen and applying a warm, wet compress over the ear can help reduce discomfort. See an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist or ENT) if symptoms persist. If the infection is bacterial, an antibiotic is required.
Burst or ruptured eardrum:
Engaging in aquatic endeavors like swimming or diving can result in the rupture of the eardrum. This unfortunate circumstance arises from sudden and drastic shifts in ear pressure or direct ear trauma. The resulting discomfort and pain can be distressing and necessitate prompt medical attention. A perforated eardrum can present with various symptoms, including fluid leakage, vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus. It is important to note that water entering the middle ear can increase the risk of infection. Small perforations may heal on their own in approximately two months. In the meantime, gently placing cotton balls in the ears during showering is recommended to avoid swimming.
In rare cases, a perforated eardrum can cause permanent hearing loss. If you are experiencing symptoms such as dizziness, fever, ringing in the ears, severe pain, or hearing loss, it could be a sign of a serious issue. It is suggested to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist to determine the appropriate course of treatment.
Spending a lot of time doing water sports in chilly waters could lead to bony bumps building up along your ear canal over time. This condition is known as external auditory exostoses or Surfer’s ear, but it doesn’t occur immediately. This condition is caused by repeated exposure to wind and cold water, resulting in inflammation that triggers bone growth and creates small protrusions. If these bumps continue to grow, they can cause a blocked sensation in your ears, decreased hearing ability, and ear infections. Wearing protective gear like earplugs and wetsuit hoods may help prevent the issue. If you’re suffering from an infection or your symptoms are severe, a doctor might suggest removing the growths with surgery.
There are a multitude of potential causes for summertime ear problems, which can make self-diagnosis challenging. It is recommended that you seek the guidance of a medical professional and provide a thorough description of your symptoms, as well as any recent events or daily habits that may have contributed to your condition. Should your symptoms persist, it is advisable to consult with your primary care physician (PCP) or an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) professional for evaluation and treatment.