If its basically a straight shot from your outer ear to the ear drum, how does water get ‘stuck’ in your ear after swimming?


If its basically a straight shot from your outer ear to the ear drum, how does water get ‘stuck’ in your ear after swimming?

In: 1136

Two things.

* If you look in an ear, it’s not a straight tunnel but rather, a hollow area going straight back before droping down at around a 40-45° decline.

* Air pressure/water tension. The water has it’s own tension keeping it in your ear. So long as the tension holds, there’s no way for air to naturally make it behind the bit of water which results in the water staying stuck in your ear.

Imagine the curvature of a spoon. It’s not a big dip, but it’s there and can still hold water

The same way you can pick up water in a straw by submerging it, then plugging the top end with your finger and picking it out of the glass. It’s a straight shot down out of the straw, but because of the size of the straw, it’s a perfect tool to hold water, so long as there is no way for more air to enter in the top gap between your finger and the trapped water.

I’m an Ear Nose and Throat doctor. A few things may be happening.

Your ear canal is small and not straight, so water may not flow freely out. At one end of your ear canal is an ear drum. Think about what happens if you get some water in a straw and then plug one end. Water doesn’t come out easily.

Your ear canal and ear drum are extremely sensitive and even a small drop of water can be noticed and be irritating. Think of the last bead of water on the inside of a straw or something. As that moves around you can feel it.

Alternatively, you may have a sensation that your ear is full because your middle ear hasn’t equalized pressure well, especially if you have been deep under water. Your brain is terrible at telling if the outer ear canal or middle ear is the cause of the pressure sensation.

Put a straw in a drink.

Put you finger on top of the straw.

Keep your finger there and pull the straw out of the drink.

During back when I was young, when to the pool and water got stuck in my ears, no matter how I jump the water can’t get out. Jump for like 5 mins no use.

When to the lifeguard for help and he put in more water. I’m like wtf? He ask me to jump again suddenly all the water come out from my ears.

Now I use this tactics if water get stuck and can’t come out.


Stick a straw in water.

Hold your finger over the end of the straw while pulling the straw out.

Water is held inside.

Hey. I used to get water in my ear that literally stopped me from hearing for days. Terrible terrible sensation. Couldn’t hear. Threw my balance off completely. @ Op or anyone else. If there is water getting stuck in your ear my ent doctor said that is 90% of the time a huge wax build up.

Sure as shit after he removed the ridiculous amount of wax build up my ears drained completely properly. Could literally feel the sensation of water leaving like I was pouring a water out of a cup. Except it was my ear.

“See you in ten years when it happens again”

Most people have never ever had their ears cleaned. Get your ears cleaned.

ear wax .
i had trouble all my life with that.
appointments every few weeks for clearing water inside the ears, countless infections.
everything went away since i cleared up my diet.
havent been at the doctors for a few years now.
never came back.

Also not all ear canals are created equal. I probably should have had tubes in my ears but they were testing an antibiotic at the time so my broke ass parents went with that. (not upset!).

But I was like 21 when the doc went “you see that picture on the wall of how the ear canal goes? … yours looks nothing like that.” He was a really good and funny doc, had him for a good decade.

He said my ears did U shape canal. I tried once to call around to find out how to keep from getting swimmers ear from chlorine pool… they all say try this… well this HURT like hell and had me jumping around like an idiot after just one ear. Looked at the little bottle again and it said “Stop use if it causes pain” or something like that. I’m like NO SHIT SHERLOCK. Issue was I had ruptured eardrums. Two on one and one on the other when I was a kid.

A bonus story is I knew I had swimmers ear and went to urgent care after work. The doc goes “Oh, that ones been perforated, and is clearly infected, lets see what the healthy side looks like… oh that one is perforated too.”.

The force of gravity isn’t enough to overcome the surface tension of the water. Shaking your head increases the force on the water, which might overcome the surface tension. Adding rubbing alcohol disrupts hydrogen bonding in the water, weakening the surface tension.

To add to the explanation with the closed straw, water exhibits a property called capillary action. In tubes significantly smaller than a standard drinking straw, the surface tension is so high relative to the volume of water in the tube that the water will climb the tube against the force of gravity.

Same way water gets “stuck” in a syringe or any other narrow tube, I think. Surface tension holds it onto the edges and it’s not easy for it to dry out.

One thing not mentionned is that water can easily get trapped if you have partial cerumen plugs in your ears.

Not hard to explain at all. Put a straw into a glass of water and put a finger to close one end. As you pull the straw out of the water, you’ll see the water inside the straw is not coming out. Two reasons:

1. Once water reaches the ear drum, it can’t come out easily because there’s no air coming from behind (thru the ear drum). This is vacuum suction.
2. Water has surface tension. That’s why water forms droplets and not falling flat on a table for example. Together with point #1, it gets stuck to the wall of the ear, creating perfect vacuum suction.

You can put in a few drops more and once you hear whooshing sound, just immediately flip your ear down. Adding more drops will pull water surface tension away from ear wall toward the new drops, so it leaves an air gap to allow air to get behind the ear.

You ever take a straw out of a drink and there’s a pocket of soda left in it? Your ear is basically a straw that goes through your head. Surface tension in an enclosed space keeps it there.

It’s like Ketchup in the bottle. You have a small tube filled with water and the only way to get the water out is to get some air into the bottle behind the liquid.

Get a straw, stick it in water, cover the top end with your finger and lift the straw, thats why.