Water in Ear: Causes, Removal of Trapped or Stuck Water

December 18, 2017

I have water in my ear, what should I do or how do I remove it? Get the symptoms and ways on how to get rid of the water trapped in your ear.


Having water stuck in ears is something almost everyone has ever experienced at some point in their life.  When it happens, it can be irritating or cause some discomfort, among other symptoms.  Having earwax might worsen the situation since it traps moisture and letting it stay there for longer periods of time.

This problem can affect babies, toddlers, children, adults, or even the old aged people. It often happens after taking a bath or shower especially if you tilted your head in a way to allow water to get in. Also, swimming in a lake, river, pool, or ocean especially if you swim underwater.

Of course, swimmers are likely to suffer from this problem as opposed to those who do not swim regularly. Furthermore, it could affect one or both ears and the water can be present for a longer time. Such as a day, two, three, four, or five days or longer periods if you ignore it.

In fact, some people have reported having water in their ears for weeks or months. However, if the issue persists for weeks or months, do not ignore it. Since it might be an infection while you assume it is just water.

Symptoms of Water in Ear

Besides uncomfortable and irritating feeling, some of the common symptoms you are likely to experience include some pain, reduced or muffled hearing.  It “decreases hearing and causes a sensation of something foreign trapped in the ear”.

Symptoms include dizziness, inflammation of the auditory canal especially if it stays there for several days. You might end up with an infection. Other symptoms include crackling or ringing or water sounds, pressure behind ears, jaw pain, earache, itchiness, vertigo, and pressure-filled headache.

The ear is responsible for balance, that’s why getting water in will confuse your body and get you dizzy or vertigo. If this doesn’t go away after your ear has been cured, try some home remedies to eliminate vertigo, or even better, visit a doctor.

If you notice blood or pus, it might be an infection or injury. See your ENT specialist immediately for further diagnosis and treatment.

Risks of Water in Ear

Although it is not a life-threatening condition, if “unchecked, the extra moisture can lead to infection and pain” [Newhealthguide.org]. One of the most common causes of a swimmer’s ear (external otitis) is ignoring water that might be in your ears.

Especially after swimming in a pool, ocean, lake, or river which might be contaminated with fungi, bacteria, or viruses.

Furthermore, if it stays weeks or months or ignoring some of the conditions that arise can lead to permanent ear damage or permanent hearing impairment.  Among other health risks such as cyst formation, eardrum inflammation. This is perhaps a reason why you should get rid of it immediately.

How to remove it

You cannot afford to ignore water in your ears since it is not only uncomfortable but can also lead to inflammation. It can also lead to muffled hearing, ringing or crackling sound, and infections. Especially external otitis and other infections. Therefore, it is important to remove it as soon as it gets in.

Most of what we are going to discuss is what you can do while you are at home i.e. home remedies. Remember that not every method recommended online is safe as it can damage your sensitive and delicate ear structures. So, what are some of these safe ways and home remedies?

1. Immediate removal after swimming

While swimming, water can get into your ears, you do not have to wait until you get home to remove it. Instead, try the various steps or remedies which employ gravity. Help in stretching the auditory canal, or push the eardrum outwards.

Some of these simple steps to remove include:
  • Get out of the water. This should also be done whether you are in the bathtub or taking a shower.
  • While your head is tilted towards the affected side and make side to side movements to help the water flow out easily. You can also hop up and down with one foot to help dislodge the water.
  • With the head tilted towards the affected ear to almost reaching your shoulder, gently hit the opposite side of your head with your palm. This force should be enough to force the water out.
  • Lie down on your side with side facing the ground for a short while for graving to help pull out the water.
More steps
  • Try vacuum creating by placing your palm on the ear with water and pushing in and out until trapped water begins to flow out while the affected side is facing downwards.
  • Yawn while pulling your earlobe to increases effectiveness. Yawning helps in stretching your ear canal as well as help in draining water.
  • Finally, try popping your ears by Valsalva maneuver where you “close the mouth, squeeze the nostrils with your fingers, take a deep breath, and blow air out of the nose to regulate air pressure. When performed correctly, you can hear a slight popping sound, a sign that eustachian tubes are open” [Enkivillage.com].

These steps are meant to drain water quickly. If these easy steps do not work ( i.e. it won’t drain), you can continue with the ways below. They are equally effective with some giving immediate results. While others might give results overnight especially those that soften the wax.

2. Add More Water

Lie down with the affected ear facing upwards towards the sky, let someone add a few more drops of water (at room temperature to avoid feeling dizzy), and immediately turn to the opposite side. All the water that was initially present will flow out due to water cohesion forces.

3. Chew Gum

Another easy way to clear this problem is chewing gum. Chewing gum involves temporomandibular joint movement which in turn creates some sort of pressure on the middle ear while the auditory canal gets stretched. This action will help in pushing water out.

4. Use rubbing alcohol

This approach works since rubbing alcohol is known for drying water moisture. It can also help kill any bacteria and thus preventing infections. However, expect a little sting immediately you add a few drops.

To use rubbing alcohol, get some from your local drug store (usually sold over the counter). Put a few drops while your head is tilted with the affected ear facing upwards. Wait for about 30 seconds for rubbing alcohol to do its work. Then, let the alcohol and water remnant flow out by tilting your head to the opposite direction.

Repeat the process a few more times until the water gets out completely. Crackling and popping sound is normal during this process.

5. Blow-drying

While at the lowest setting and kept about a foot away, blow dying your ear can vaporize the water, letting it get out of vapors. Pulling your earlobe gently downwards might increase the effectiveness of the process. Be careful not to get burnt.

6. Drains mixtures

If your eardrum is not perforated or punctured, a few drops of rubbing alcohol, vinegar mixture, salty water solution, or garlic and olive mixture will be helpful. All the mixtures should be at your body temperature to avoid dizziness.

7. Rubbing alcohol and vinegar

Rubbing alcohol and vinegar mixed in equal amounts helps in removing water. It helps in limiting bacterial growth, thereby preventing infections such as external otitis.

8. Saltwater solution

A saltwater solution (a quarter teaspoon of salt mixed added to a glass of warm water) fights infections, gets rids of trapped water and wax. Squirt the mixture using a bulb ear syringe.

9. Garlic and olive oil mixture

Garlic has antibacterial properties while olive oil will give a soothing relief (i.e. it will relieve any discomfort) and has antiseptic properties. Crush some garlic, add some olive oil, warm, and extract the mixture using a strainer.

Put a few drops of the mixture into your ear. Wait for a little while and tilt your head to let the mixture and trapped water out. Olive oil can also be used alone.

10. Steam Treatment or hot compress

Another simple but effective way is through the use of steam. Put hot water in a big bowl, cover yourself with a towel, and inhale the steam slowly for about five to ten minutes. Then tilt your head towards the affected side for water to flow out. Hot compresses will have a similar effect.

11. Try OTC eardrops treatments

There are many alcohol-based OTC eardrops that help since alcohol evaporates fast. Put a few drops of these products, wait a little while, and tilt towards the affected side water to flow out.

12. Hydrogen peroxide

Going on with remedies, put a few drops of 3% dilute hydrogen peroxide to help soften wax that could trap some water moisture or in case of the feeling of water in your ears. This will also prevent infections.

Precaution of Water in Ear

We have told you what to put in the ear to get water out. Even if you are desperate and feeling so uncomfortable be patient. Here are some important precautions you must observe.

  • Never want to use Q-tips to dry or remove anything from your ears” [Zocdoc.com]as this can injure your eardrum, canal, or push earwax deep further or towards your tympanic membrane.
  • Do not insert anything including your keys, pens, fingers, etc. since it can cause infections and injuries.
  • Dry them well after getting out of the water using a soft piece of cloth.
  • See a doctor in case of swelling, redness, hearing loss (i.e. you can’t hear), itchiness, or yellow-green pus from your auditory canal.
  • Do not use headphones until you have gotten rid of all the water out.
  • Opting for remedies to remove the water inside the ear that does not involve alcohol will be ideal if you have little wax since your auditory canal skin might dry up.

Prevention – water plugs

One of the best ways to protect and stop water from getting into your ears is by using water plugs. You will get these devices from some of the leading local and online stores such as Boots, CVS, Walmart, amazon.com, Walgreen, target.com, among others.

There are various brands for adults and those for kids including those with tubes that will ensure your child does not end up with this problem. Read reviews, see ratings, and user comments to know which brand of plugs will be ideal.

When in the middle ear or behind eardrums

For people who have undergone myringotomy, a surgical procedure where an ”incision is made on the eardrum to help drain fluid and thus bringing pressure balance on the outside and inside the ear”[healcure.org],  have had a small tube placed in their eardrum to correct Eustachian tube dysfunction or have perforated eardrums, water can get into the middle ear.

This often happens after swimming, diving, or showering. When it happens some of the symptoms you will have will include pain, muffled hearing. Also, dizziness (since the middle ear helps in maintaining body balance).

Otitis Media with Effusion (OME)

Sometimes, suffering from otitis media, especially otitis media with effusion (OME) can result to “thick or sticky fluid behind the eardrum in the middle ear” [Nlm.nih.gov] which will not be water for this case but you will feel much or less the same as if it is water.

Younger children (toddlers and newborns) tend to suffer from otitis media with effusion more often than adults. Since their eustachian tubes are shorter, floppier with smaller openings, and get colds more frequently.

Do not try any of the discussed ways or remedies when it comes to clearing water from behind the eardrum. Visit a doctor for cure or treatment in case of any infection. Doing it on your own could harm your delicate middle ear.

When painful

On the issue that may arise is some pain, we have had complaints from a number of patients. Some people complain about feeling water in the ear and it becomes painful when blowing their nose, others mention jaw pain, among other
symptoms. A little pain might be ok but too may be an indication of a more serious problem.

If you have pain, we recommend you see an ENT specialist for professional diagnosis since the pain could be due to water, plugged ears that might strain eardrum, or other infections.

Stuck for days

In case you have water stuck in your ears several days and you have tried everything without success, see your ENT specialist for further examination.

In inner ear

The ear is divided into three parts, the outer that ends on the eardrums, the middle, and the inner ear. It is not possible for water to get into your inner ear.

Why does it feel like water in my ear

If you have the ‘ feeling like water in your ear,’ it could actually be water or plugged ears. As already discussed, you can conclude that it is water that has gotten into or has been stuck in your ears. Especially if you feel that way after swimming, taking a shower or bath, after diving, etc.

However, if the feeling is accompanied by ringing or crackling sound and it often happens when you wake up, nothing comes out when you try the above removal method it could be clogged or plugged ears. This problem can stay for weeks or months and at times you will always or constantly have this feeling of water in your ears.

Loss of hearing

Another common symptom is the loss of hearing i.e. muffling of sound. This happens when the eustachian tube becomes blocked/clogged and/or the canal gets clogged with earwax.  Furthermore, too much earwax might touch the eardrum hampering the normal hearing process and creating the sensation of water behind the ear.

To some people, the feeling might hurt (i.e. accompanied by pain especially due to strain or stretching of the eardrums). However, in most cases, it doesn’t hurt. Other common symptoms include dizziness.

As we were researching, we found a patient who was complaining saying he feels like water in the ear. He says “I know there isn’t water in my ear, but it feels like there is. It feels like something is moving around in there. What should I do about this? Can I have my ears flushed out or something?” [Zocdoc.com]. This is a typical feeling when they are clogged.

We have already looked at symptoms, causes that include allergies, otitis media, cold, sinus infection, after taking a flight, etc., See more on clogged ears to know what to do.