Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Otitis Externa

Otitis media, also known as swimmer’s ear, is caused by anything that creates a warm, moist environment in the outer ear canal where bacteria and viruses can grow.

Common causes of otitis media include:

  • Vigorous cleaning that removes the cerumen (waxy lining of the ear)
  • Excessive ear wax
  • Water or moisture in your ear from:
    • Swimming
    • Sweating
    • Humid environment
  • Excessive wearing of:
    • Ear plugs
    • Poorly fitting hearing aids
    • Ear buds
    • Swim caps
  • Allergies to hair products
  • Cut or injury to the ear canal
  • Eczema or other skin conditions

Diagnosing otitis externa

Your physician will ask about your symptoms and use an otoscope, a lighted device for viewing the inside of the ears, to determine if there is an infection. If pus is draining from your ear, a sample will be taken for study under a microscope to determine which microbe is causing the infection.