Swimmer's Ear Costs US Whopping $500M a Year CDC statistics, AP analysis estimate 2M get outer-ear infection annually By Newser Editors and Wire Services Posted May 20, 2011 1:07 PM CDT 1 comment Comments Michael Phelps of the United States tucks his ears under his cap at the XI FINA World Championships at the Parc Jean-Drapeau on July 24, 2005 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Getty Images) (Newser) – Swimmer's ear causes about 2.4 million trips to doctors and hospitals in a year, according to the first national estimates of the ailment. And that translates into big bucks: The CDC says the cases amounted to about $500 million in annual medical costs—or roughly $200 per visit. Some people get the problem repeatedly, but according to calculations by the AP based on CDC statistics, more than 2 million individuals get it. Swimmer's ear is an itchy, painful, outer-ear infection that can occur when bacteria in swimming water get through breaks in the skin. It's commonly treated with antibiotic ear drops. More than half the cases were in adults.