Ear swelling, both temporary and permanent, can be caused by allergies, injuries, or something as common as water. Direct injury, for example, can lead to permanent swelling of the ear due to damage to the cartilage. Contact dermatitis, a type of allergy, is a particularly common cause of swollen ears, especially in women and men who get an ear pierced and insert a type of metal to which they are allergic. Swimming in polluted water or getting shower water trapped in the ear canal can cause swimmer’s ear, which typically causes pain and swollen ears. In most cases of swollen ears, the swelling goes away once the cause is treated, but this is not always the case.
One common cause of ear swelling is blunt trauma, which may be administered to the ear by a physical assault, a fall, or during the course of a sporting exercise. In addition to swelling, such an injury is often accompanied by broken bones and other visible damage, such as abrasions and bruises. A common injury leading from blunt trauma to an ear is cauliflower ear, where the outer ear cartilage is damaged so much that it cannot receive proper nourishment and blood flow. This condition, which often presents in sports players who regularly engage in physical activities that impact their ears, can cause permanent ear swelling and general ear misshaping.
Another common cause of swelling in the ear are allergies that often result in contact dermatitis. Sometimes the metals in an earring will bother the skin, resulting in the affected skin becoming irritated and possibly swollen. A couple of metals that can cause contact dermatitis in some people are nickel and chromium. Another common type of irritant that can cause ear swelling is an insect bite or sting, often inflicted by a bee, wasp, or ant. Different people are allergic to different substances, so the reactions resulting from these kinds of irritants may vary significantly from person to person.
A condition called swimmer’s ear typically presents with swelling and pain or tenderness in and around the ear. This condition gets its name because it usually develops due to exposure to pathogens in water. When these pathogens get into the ear canal, they can infect the ear and result in this condition. Common tactics to avoid this condition include not swimming in polluted water, drying the ears out manually to prevent the pathogens from festering, and utilizing properly fitted earplugs.