Swimming gives Hayley earache

It’s August and the swimming season is in full swing, which for Hayley and lots of other deaf children invariably ends up with a trip to the doctor…

Thursday afternoon, at home

Hayley’s appeared in my office doorway, her palm pressed against her left ear, shoulder hunched up protectively, pain etched on her face. I’ve seen that look before.

“How long’s it been hurting?”

“On and off since yesterday,” she replies, allowing me to give her a hug (only acceptable on special occasions these teenage days, only brief and definitely not in front of anyone else).

side profile sick young woman having ear pain

Hmm, that was the day Hayley and her mates went swimming. Just before that, she’d taken her little nephew to the local pool and before that she’d been off at Cub camp as a young leader, which had involved many water activities.

It’s the same most summers, or whenever there’s lots of swimming. Sometimes one or other of her ears begins to hurt then subsides after a day or so, other times it turns mean and develops into an ear infection. I know many deaf children pick up ear infections easily when swimming, and Hayley’s no different.

She isn’t supposed to get her ears wet at all because she’s had mastoidectomies to remove cholesteatomas in both ears, so when she goes in any water (even the shower) she wears swim moulds made for her by the audiologist. There’s often a full blown panic when she’s packing to go away somewhere and suddenly can’t find her swim plugs.

But even so, however careful Hayley is, after lots of swimming, ear infections have a tendency to creep in.

I remember a long awaited holiday in Greece 10 years ago – it was blissful, most days were spent in the pool with her two brothers. But then the ache began, by bedtime it had turned into searing pain and Hayley, eight then, was up in the night crying in agony.

We set out early next morning in search of an ENT doctor in the main town. The lovely doctor, who was thrilled to see her mastoidectomy scar and hear the word cholesteatoma (of Greek origin I guessed?), did a very thorough examination and prescribed antibiotics. Thankfully the pills kicked in quickly and stopped the pain.

Not wanting to see the rest of her holiday ruined, the doctor said Hayley could go in the pool after a couple of days, but not put her head underwater. He also said to stop using her ear moulds, which would keep re-infecting her ears, and gave us some cotton wool and Vaseline to use instead. So all was not lost.

Right now, I’ll whizz her up to our GP to check if it’s an infection. I think it’s also probably time to ask for an appointment with the audiologist to check if Hayley needs new moulds made, in case her ears have grown.

Swim plugs – just another example of those extra little things that being deaf involves. But also one more thing that Hayley has learned over the years to manage herself on the road to independence.

Please note photo is not of Hayley.




2 thoughts on “Swimming gives Hayley earache

  1. Poor Hayley She has my sympathies. I have had a lifetime of right-sided cholesteatoma and mastoidectomies (my last one was so severe I’ve been told that the next infection will involve the surgeon effectively concreting my ear up) and have lost something like 80% of my hearing on that side. I have not been able to swim since I was 15 as repeated surgery has meant I can’t wear swim plugs either – and I loved swimming. I would recommend the cotton wool and vaseline route (my preferred method for teaching the offspring how to swim) for the immediate term but I don’t doubt technology has improved immensely since I was younger and that Hayley will soon be able to swim again. Best wishes xx

  2. We are currently struggling with on gong ear infections – since June – which seems to swap ears as soon as we think we are on top of it. Just returned from 10 days in lanzarote which involved lots of swimming. She wore swim molds throughout and was already on a 1p days course of antibiotic/steroid eardrops following microsuctioning of her left ear to remove the pus. Luckily her ears behaved while we were away but she announced that she had pus in her right ear whilst on the journey home yesterday. So we were straight up to the out of hours gp today for the same eardrops but for the other ear!! Luckily she never gets.pain with her infections or in anyway unwell so she happily carried.on with her day but without hearing aids. Unfortunately she is still complaining that her left mold is uncomfortable but audio won’t do new molds until both ears are clear of infection!! To make matters worse we came home to find a letter saying that her ENT appointment on Tues has been postponed until 16th August. It feels like it is never ending!!

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