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Could sauna be the best way to naturally cure an ear infection?

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During a recent trip to Southern California, after a body surfing session, where I got bounced around from all directions, I found myself with water in my right ear that just wouldn’t release.  For days, my right ear was plugged and eventually became painful.

walking the beach with da wife after body surfing

A smarter person would get to the pharmacy for some ear drops or an antibiotic, but a more stubborn person (me) just tried to forget it and grind it out, hopefully healing myself.

Plane touching down in Minneapolis, I closed my eyes and creatively visualized the path home to fire up my backyard sauna. That evening, I had a great three round sauna session, getting rid of airplane juice, meditating with a fresh shave in the hot room, and untangling some wires in my head.

I went to bed in my upright and locked position.  Next morning, I feel my right ear: pain is mostly gone.  What’s better?  My ear has opened up.  A good chunk of ear wax released (yes, i know, we aren’t supposed to put a finger in our ears, but it itched!).

My ear feels better now.

I am reliving the deep, intense heat, coupled with some steam, and when I close my eyes I see the words “natural remedy.”

Could a sauna session be the best way to clean out our ears and get rid of an ear infection?

Sounds good to me.

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14 thoughts on “Could sauna be the best way to naturally cure an ear infection?”

  1. Ear infections can really be nerve wracking Glenn. It is good to hear that you got rid of it, without any antibiotics. After all, why take antibiotics for something that can be taken care of by traditional home remedies. Sauna therapy is an ideal way to clear our sinuses, open nasal passageways and preventing spread of infection to the middle ear. However, if the symptoms return, it would be better to get it checked by a doctor.

  2. Glenn,

    I think you are giving sauna some benefit to the ear which it does not have. You had your ear canal plugged with water behind wax, which eventually gave way and problem resolved. There may have been mild infection but the problem resolved once the obstruction was gone, so no antibiotics were called for. I once had a similar process when wresting with boys in a pool while on a skiing trip. I had balance issues and no hearing in that ear till return home. I had to get the obstruction resolved by an ENT person.
    You may want to consider olive oil on semiregular basis if wax continues to be a problem, and use rubbing alcohol after the episode you had to keep any residual infection down, since sea water near shore has bacteria, and obstructed ear canal is not a bad culture medium.
    The comment about sinuses, etc is partly true. Our body uses fever to fight infection, so we are doing the same thing with getting body temp up in sauna. To the extent that the nasal passages stay open would help prevent ear infections, for the same reason that there is no obstruction any longer. There needs to be some followup, since the same issues will return once you return to normal body temp.

  3. Gene: Thanks for your thoughtful, knowledgeable (and humble) response and tips. I say humble in that I know you are a renowned physician yet you don’t wave that title as part of your name. PS…When can we Sauna Talk? Real soon now, we’re going to be met with brrrr temperatures and great 612 Sauna weather!

  4. almost the same thing happen to me ..I had an ear infection for days and it was getting worse I was about to see my ENT..I went to the gym and worked out after that I went in the sauna hoping that it might help and sure enough the next morning a chunk of something fell out after that no more pain ..!

  5. inka: Think we should bring an authentic kick ass mobile sauna to the annual Ear, Nose & Throat convention? As bonus, the the Dr’s can chill out between lectures.

  6. i usually swim before sauna. I like wet hair and a rinsed off body before first round. Just me, maybe.

  7. I’m a bit confused about the sauna and an ear infection issue… I took my 15yo complaining about some sinus pain and one of his ears feeling ‘clogged up and muffled’ to a traditional sauna 3 days ago hoping the hot steam would help ease the congestion. We were there no longer than 25 minutes (broken up in three chunks) and the next day they woke up feeling awful with the hearing on one side substantially reduced. The morning of the following day there was some discharge from the affected ear and yesterday we went to see an ENT consultant who diagnosed a middle ear infection with a perforated eardrum. We left the doctor’s office with a prescription for an antibiotic and a strict order to keep the affected ear dry. Stupidly, I forgot to mention the sauna and ask if it was safe in cases of a perforated ear drum…. Now my question is this: if there is a middle ear infection with a perforated eardrum and the doctor says ‘make sure to keep that ear dry’, is a traditional steam sauna safe to use or would it contribute to a further growth of the bacteria, due to the high humidity? I’d be grateful if you could clarify this for me. Thank you.

  8. hmm.. well, i’m not a doctor but i occasionally get swimmer’s ear at our cabin. i’ve found the heat good for my ear, and have no facts to support but it seems to soften the wax inside and open things up. I suggest asking a couple knowledgable ENT doctors…. in Finland, as here in US I sense that most Drs. may discount sauna because most may not fully understand it. (like not the infrared light bulb closets).

  9. I have suffered with a hearing problem in my left ear and have struggled to hear for the past two years. I have recently bought myself a sauna and had no idea that a sauna would be any benefit to my hearing loss. After the second sauna I noticed that my hearing had improved. I always had my tv volume up to 45-50 and still struggled to hear the tv. I was surprised when I put the tv on and the volume was down to 12 and I could hear the tv quite well on 12 Volume. At first I thought there was something the matter with my tv and went upstairs to check the upstairs tv only to find I could hear loud and clear at volume 12 so, googled the benefits of saunas with blocked ears and was surprised to read what other people had to say. I have used oil in the past and had my ears syringed but still could not hear. I have no evidence that the sauna cleared my ears, but it’s the only explanation I can think of. It’s life changing for me.

  10. I am so very aggravated by fluid in my ear. I had an upper respiratory virus that started in MAY. I had a fever for the first few days and a nagging dry cough that continued for several weeks. My throat was very sore as well. I went to an urgent care the first weekend after I got sick and tested negative for COVID and strep. I have completed two rounds of steroids and one round of Augmentin. I have tried nasal sprays, decongestants and allergy meds. I tried sitting in a steam room. For the past month one ear has been clogged with fluid. I have terrible tinnitus (high pitched squeal, whooshing and thumping noises), and my hearing has definitely declined. (There is no wax in my ears.) I am so fed up with this, and now I am scheduled to get tubes in my ear but can’t get that done for another month! I’ll be trying yoga exercises next, but I’m frankly exhausted and have gotten no relief !

  11. a total bummer. I get swimmer’s ear every summer.. i sauna and swim like a madman, so it’s inevitable. My wife wears ear plugs and that is a big cure all for her. I should probably get on that program, myself. Sorry to hear about your ear issues! Wishing you good healing.

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