The advice on this page is not exhaustive and should not be used to self-diagnose, but it may give you an idea as to what might be causing your ear condition. Always ask your pharmacist or GP for advice.

Otitis Externa (inflammation of the outer ear canal) – What is it?

Otitis Externa is a condition that causes inflammation of the external ear canal (the tube between the outer ear and eardrum). Typically, only one ear is affected at a time.

Otitis Externa is commonly known as ‘swimmer’s ear’ because it is often caused by water remaining in the ear canal after swimming. If there is also an ear wax build up, water can get trapped in the ear canal which can cause irritation of the ear canal skin and sometimes infection.


  • Ear pain, varying in severity
  • An itchy feeling in and around the ear
  • Temporary hearing loss, or difficulty understanding quiet sounds
  • Some ear discharge, normally clear, white or yellowy in colour
  • Redness and swelling of the outer ear and ear canal
  • Tenderness when moving the ear or jaw


  • Swimming (especially in dirty water) which can trap water in the ear canal causing irritation
  • Profuse sweating or humid environments which can produce bacteria-laden liquid in the ear canal, and wash away protective layers of earwax.
  • Insertion of cotton buds, or incorrect insertion of ear plugs or earphones, both of which can cause damage and irritation
  • Chemicals, such as hair spray, hair dye or some earwax softeners
  • Underlying skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne
  • Weak immune system as a result of using certain cancer treatments such as chemotherapy
  • Allergies, such as allergic rhinitis and skin conditions like eczema, all of which can cause inflammation and discomfort in the ear


Otitis Externa can usually be treated with ear drops from your pharmacist. Ask your pharmacist for more details. It’s important to see a doctor if Otitis Externa is causing you extreme pain, if you have a fever, or if the condition doesn’t resolve within a few days.

Cl-ear treatments for Otitis Externa include:

Cl-ear Ear Relief Ear Drops – an effective treatment for Otitis Externa, which removes excess water and contains a surface anaesthetic to relieve pain.