More than 80 percent of children will suffer from at least one ear infection by their third birthday.

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Ilich Vahimi was playing with his 2-year-old niece Cali one day and was about to toss her in the pool, but his sister stopped him. Not because her daughter was afraid of the water, but because Cali was suffering from yet another case of swimmer’s ear, an infection common in children.

More than 80 percent of children will suffer from at least one ear infection by their third birthday, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their child to a doctor.

Bacteria can cause infections in different areas of the ear canal. Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear.  A common cause is water that remains in the ear after swimming or bathing. This creates a moist haven where bacteria can thrive.  The infection can cause itching, pain, fever, even muffled hearing.

“I was shocked to find out how common of a problem this really is,” Vahimi says.

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Vahimi, an avid swimmer, scuba diver and surfer who’d had trouble with swimmer’s ear himself, asked his sister if they’d found any way to prevent it. Her answer inspired Vahimi to do some research.

“I was surprised to find that there was no good solution to prevent swimmer’s ear and remove water from the ears,” Vahimi says.

Vahimi’s years of research, development and engineering with a Seattle-based design firm have added a new option, the acQuaMD, which uses vibration to safely remove water from the ear, preventing the conditions that often lead to infection.

Here are some tips for preventing swimmer’s ear.

  • Dry ears – carefully. After swimming or bathing, dry the ears thoroughly. Dry only the outer ear, using a soft towel or cloth. Tip the head to the side to help water drain from the ear canal. If water remains, try using a blow dryer set to the lowest setting and held at least a foot away from the ear. Or try the acQuaMD to safely remove water.
  • Preventive solution. Eardrops before and after swimming can help. A mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 1 part rubbing alcohol may help promote drying and prevent the growth of bacteria. Pour 1 teaspoon of the solution into each ear and let it drain back out. Use only if there’s no punctured eardrum.
  • Safe water. Avoid swimming in areas marked as having a high bacterial count.
  • Keep foreign objects out of ears. Ears have natural protection, a waxy substance called cerumen. Never use a cotton swab, paper clip or hairpin to dig at ears.
  • Protect your ears. Use cotton balls in the ears while applying hair products.

acQuaMD is a household device that uses ultrasonic vibration to safely remove water from the ears. An alternative for home remedies and helping prevent swimmer’s ear/surfer’s ear, its adjustable ear pieces make it a solution for kids and adults alike.