Can Humidity Cause Ear Problems?

From swimmer’s ear to malfunctioning hearing aids, humidity and moisture can cause all sorts of ear-related symptoms when not properly prepared for. Infections can pop up from a million different causes in our environment, but humidity and excess moisture will almost always be close by. When ear pain, temporary hearing loss, or hearing aid troubles come around, make sure you seek treatment from your ear care professional and find out how you can handle the troubles of humidity in your environment.

Common Ear Infection

While most assume Swimmer’s ear would require a long day at the pool or swimming in the ocean, this common type of bacterial infection is easily developed on dry land. Clinically known as, Otitis Externa, Swimmer’s ear is a disease developed when humidity and moisture get too much water into the ear canal. The water in the inner ear tube causes our natural earwax to soften. This hinders the earwax’s natural defenses to protect our inner ear tube and eardrum from damage and disease. Losing this natural defense can leave our ears open to fungal infections and a variety of other ear infections. Naturally, these Swimmer’s ear issues usually leave us with discomfort, ear pain, and even some discharge from the ear as it heals. In damp environments, make sure you protect your ear canals and remove any excess water as you notice it, keeping your ears dry. 

If certain infections are left without treatment, there is some association between hearing loss issues and prolonged ear infection or disease. To maintain healthy hearing and overall inner ear health, seek treatment from a hearing healthcare professional for any infections you experience. 

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear Infections:

  • Itching in the ear canal
  • Severe pain (made worse by tugging on the outer ear)
  • Some drainage of clear, odorless fluid
  • The sensation of fullness in the ear due to built up drainage or discharge
  • Impaired hearing
  • Redness or swelling of delicate skin in the outer or inner ear
  • Lymph nodes in your neck start to swell
  • Fever

Other Common Causes of Fungal Ear Infection

  • Damage to the ear canal 
  • Exposure to unclean water sources
  • Overcleaning the canal with cotton swabs
  • Small breaks in the skin from hearing aids
  • Water sports

Tinnitus and Humidity

Tinnitus is a disease of the inner ear typically characterized by a ‘ringing in the ears’ sensation. It is most common in subjects with hearing impairment issues and those experiencing progressing loss of normal hearing. When it comes to Tinnitus, studies have found that certain external factors and weather patterns that can exasperate the symptoms for sufferers. Increases in air pressure, moisture level, or a major difference in pressure causes some Tinnitus issues to worsen. These changes from normal air pressure and increases in humidity can cause a spike in-ear pressure. This continuous pressure takes Tinnitus symptoms to a higher level. 

Symptoms of Tinnitus

  • Ringing or continuous noise in the inner ear
  • Ear pain
  • Drainage from ear
  • Muffled Hearing

Other Common Causes of Tinnitus

  • Noise-induced hearing loss (temporary or permanent) 
  • Ear Injury 
  • Circulatory system issues or injury
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Meniere’s Disease

Hearing Aids and Humidity

Whether you suffer from noise-induced hearing loss, a congenital condition that affects healthy hearing, or an injury, those with permanent hearing loss can find a better quality of life with the use of hearing aid devices. With the service of a hearing aid, also comes a good amount of hearing aid maintenance and upkeep. The ideal environment to store a hearing aid is a clean, dry place in your home. For wearers who live in humid weather or constantly encounter high levels of moisture, there may be some issues. 

Water and hearing aid devices do not safely mix. This doesn’t just mean keeping your devices out of swimming pools or the shower. Even humid weather or storing hearing aids near the moisture of a bathroom can lead to devise breakdown. Normal hearing aid batteries and the internal workings of the device will begin to rust as condensation is felt inside with no way to evaporate. 

For those with normal hearing loss that benefit greatly from hearing aids, losing these expensive devices to rust or breakdown can be a major struggle for their overall ear health. Subjects with impaired hearing that find moisture or humidity may be affecting the proper function of their hearing devices should reach out to their hearing healthcare professional for maintenance and function evaluation. 

Beyond the hearing problems cause by deteriorating hearing aids, the device itself can also cause some moisture issues in a humid environment. If an area or room has excess moisture in the air, a hearing aid can trap water in the ear, causing a deep tissue infection. 

Other Causes of Hearing Aid Damage

  • Improper cleaning of devices
  • Chronic infections in-ear without proper cleaning
  • Incorrect storage when not in use
  • Damage or impact that alters the structure
  • Use of hearing devices during unapproved activities 

Preparing Your Ears for a Humid Environment

You can’t always change the weather or your environment, but there are some ways your can help protect your ears from the issues that humidity and moisture can cause. You can be your first line of defense against infection. 

Dry the Ear

The best defense against moisture is to keep the ear dry! Make sure water is removed from the inner ear after swimming or diving. Keep an eye out for anytime moisture can invade, like after a rainfall, in a high humidity environment, or a water-based workplace. Keeping water from remaining in the ear canal after swimming or encountering moisture can keep the infection from setting in. 

Clean the Ear

Invest in good anti-fungal or antibiotic ear drops to keep your ears in tip-top shape or make your inner ear cleaner at home. A simple mixture with vinegar or alcohol can help keep water or bacteria from accumulating in the ear and turning into an infection. 

Plan Ahead

Having some planning for your ear health can also make a big difference in protecting from issues humidity can cause. When you know you’ll be swimming or diving, bring some earplugs along to keep water from flowing freely into the ear. 

Invest in proper ear health. Avoid cotton buds that remove too much protective earwax from the ear. Schedule regular visits to your ear health professional to make sure no issues are forming. 

If you will be in a high moisture environment, make sure to plan accordingly with properly cleaning after and hearing aid maintenance as needed.

Humidity can cause ear problems. It’s important that you take a proactive role in your ear health and safety.