Ending up with water in the ear is far from pleasant. Whether you’ve just been swimming in the local swimming pool or out on a lake under the warm sun rays, or you’ve been camping or hiking and decided to take a refreshing bath in the river/lake, there is some risk that you will have this problem.
The reason that this pocket of water doesn’t leak on its own (although it’s a liquid) is that due to all the little things in your ear, like small hairs and ear impurities, a pocket of water can buildup and it needs a way to be released. There are several things you can do to release the water and we will share them with you in this article.
Before you visit the doctor you can try several methods at home. If they don’t work and you have persistent pain and discomfort, you should immediately see your general practitioner. If you have pain then probably you developed an inflammation in your ear and you will absolutely need more special handling. For simple earaches, read our article on home earache remedies to help you.
So, if you wonder how you can get the water out of your ear, read on and try these methods. Don’t hesitate to visit your doctor if your condition doesn’t improve.
Here are several methods as regards to getting the water out of your ear.
Using alcohol or vinegar
This method is pretty simple and even doctors perform them in their cabinets (although far more professionally and under their supervision), but here is what you need to do.
Prepare rubbing alcohol and vinegar and mix them together in a small glass of water. Make sure that the alcohol and vinegar are of equal amount – 50% alcohol and 50% vinegar. Use a dropper and fill it with this solution. Carefully drop a few drops in your ear and tilt your head away so that the water can leak out. You may wonder why this works and here is the reason.
Vinegar, due to it being highly acidic, will break down any earwax you may have, which is blocking the water from draining out. Alcohol on the other hand, mixes well with water and dries much faster. So, even if the water doesn’t drain immediately it will evaporate, due to it being mixed with the water in your ear. Also, the combination of alcohol and vinegar will keep infection and inflammation at bay.
A word of caution though – don’t do this treatment if you have a punctured ear-drum.
The vacuum method
This method is also very simple and you don’t even have to put anything additional in your ear. Tilt your head towards your affected ear, so that it’s facing downward. Lay your palm on your ear (similar to a sleeping posture) and press your palm up and down, trying to create vacuum.
Optionally you can do the same, but with your finger only. Again, when you do this treatment, always tilt your head towards your affected ear. If you do it reverse, you risk the water doing even deeper in your canal and cause more damage. If you imagine that gravity is pulling the water out, you want the opening to face down, not up. So, using your finger is also an option, but make sure your finger is clean and your nails short. If you accidentally scratch the inner surface, while trying to remove the water, you risk infection. This is why, using your palm is preferable.
Also, if you use the finger method, you can try to do the following as a bonus activity. As you’re in the ‘in’ moment, creating the vacuum, you can try to rotate your finger clockwise, thus moving the ear surface slightly and eventually helping the water to dislocate in its pocket. This will also create motion in the earwax thus releasing the water. This could also improve your hearing, if the earwax was causing you problems beforehand.
Using a blow dryer
For this method you need a blow dryer. Don’t be skeptical about it – it has been proven to work. Turn the blow dryer on and position it no closer than one foot away from your affected ear. The dryer doesn’t have to work on its full power. Starting it on its lowest setting is more than enough. You need hot air to get into your ear, so that the water begins to evaporate, thus releasing its pocket. You can blow the air dryer straight into your ear, or optionally across it. Either way, the idea is that some heat gets into the ear.
Caution: don’t keep the dryer too close to you or at a high setting. This may cause burning, and can be especially injuring to your inner ear (which is far more sensitive than your skin or hair). So, be very careful while doing this technique.
This is simple enough, since you can quickly get some over-the-counter medication for draining the water in your ear. These ear drops contain alcohol (if you remember the first treatment), which helps with the evaporation of the water. Tilt your head so you can drop the needed amount of ear drop solution and then let the water drain out.
Follow the instructions on the bottle (package) before you perform this method. If you have trouble doing this yourself, ask a family member to help you.
Wipe with cloth
This is a simple method to help the water drain safely. If you don’t want to perform any of the above (or following) procedures, you can simply take a soft clean cloth and place it on your affected ear, and then tilt your head towards that ear.
Also, clean the inside of the ear with the cloth. Again, make sure it’s clean so that you won’t transmit any infectious diseases and cause inflammation. Using this method will eventually release the water pocket and slowly drain the water.
Another variation to the cloth is to use a wet hot cloth. Heat usually helps relax the tissues and usually works to open the Eustachian tubes. This is exactly where water usually builds up. So, prepare hot water and clean towel/cloth. Drain the cloth in the water and then squeeze the towel, to remove the excess water.
Place gently the hot cloth on your affected ear. Also, keep your head tilted towards the affected ear. Let the cloth stay like that for 30 seconds. Keep doing this until you hear the pop sound, or you feel the water pocket draining from your ear. This may happen around the fifth repetition.
Tilting the head
This is another classic method for clearing the water. Tilt your head towards the affected ear and begin tugging up and down your earlobe. This will stretch slightly the canal and thus help moving the water here and there. It needs very little push so it can drain out.
This method is often accompanied by the advice to hop on one leg while doing the above instruction. You can try that too, but it’s not as necessary as simply moving the ear and tilting your head to the side of the affected ear.
If that doesn’t help, combine this method with some of the above.
An improvement to this method is to also lie down, again with the affected ear towards your pillow. You probably figured out why the above procedures work and this is due to the gravity. It’s always pulling the water out of your ear, when you tilt your head towards it.
So, lie down and keep your ear against the pillow. Stay like that for several minutes. It should drain quickly. If the incident happened in the evening and you need to rest, you can go to bed, but try to always keep your ear facing down. Of course, you can’t control your position while you sleep, but as you move in your sleep, little by little, the water will also move and eventually drain on its own.
You could also try this method: tilt your head from side to side and then, as your affected ear is facing down, hit slightly your opposite ear, thus creating slight force from the healthy ear to the affected ear. This will hopefully force the water out due to the force wave.
The chewing method
As weird as it may sound, chewing can be very helpful with clearing the water from your ear. Historically, the inner ear and all of its mechanism were once part of the lower jaw. As evolution forced animals and primates to evolve, the inner ear and its small bone structure, slowly moved towards the skull, forming a ear. So, you can now see why if you try chewing, this will slightly activate the inner ear. You may notice that if you really have your lunch or dinner you may not have any more water in your ear by the time you’ve finished your meal.
If you don’t want to wait until mealtime, you can chew gum. While doing that you can also tilt your head opposite the affected ear and then rapidly tilt it the reverse. You’re forcing the water out of you affected ear with this motion. Of course, be careful not to do it too forcefully or you may affect your neck. You don’t need any more additional injuries.
Yawning is also helpful, for nearly the same reasons. It activates the inner ear and its structure, and you may even hear a pop sound. Usually when you have water in your ear, your hearing is impaired and the sounds are dull and ‘remote’. If you yawn and hear the pop sound, that would usually mean that you managed to dislodge the water pocket and your hearing may immediately improve.
The Valsalva method
This is another popular method which allegedly helps plugged ears full of water. This is how to do it. Close the mouth, take a deep breath and before you breathe out, close your nostrils with your fingers. Then try to push the air out of your ears. Don’t close the nostrils too tightly.
Leave a bit of room of the air to be able to escape from the nose. You are regulating the air pressure in your head. This may also move the water and hopefully you may hear the pop sound.
Hot steam bath
To make this method work, you need hot steaming water in a bowl and a towel. Cover your head with the cloth (make sure it’s large enough and you don’t see any openings when you cover your head), and stay like that right above the steaming water. As this a hot steam (and we explained that heat helps relaxing the Eustachian tubes) within the next 10 minutes you should feel the excess water in your ear seeping out of it. If it doesn’t work within ten minutes, you can stay longer that way, but generally, that method helps in most cases. Here’s our popular article on home remedies for ear infection for you to read, so check it out.
If none of the above helps, you definitely must see a doctor. The indications are if you continue to feel pain, have impaired hearing, if there’s a strange drainage from your affected ear, like pus, and has yellow or green color, including a foul and unpleasant smell, etc.
These symptoms are clear indications that an infection is taking place and must be caught on time. Probably your doctor will give you some mild antibiotics, but otherwise, your general practitioner will decide what will help you.
She/he will inspect your ear and canal and determine what the problem is. Again, if you experience some of these unnatural symptoms don’t delay your visit. Your main concern should be to prevent or catch in time an infection. If you don’t do that, the infection may permanently damage your ear leading to loss of hearing in that ear.