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Surfer's Ear

Surfer's ear (also known as swimmer's ear) is a condition where the bone of the ear canal develops multiple bony growths called exostoses. Over time, this can eventually cause a partial or complete blockage of the ear canal.

The condition is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to cold water or wind. Cold water surfers are six times more likely to get surfer's ear than warm water surfers.

Symptoms and complications

An ear infection is one of the primary symptoms of surfer's ear.

It is important to seek treatment early. When the ear canal is narrow, water and debris can become trapped and cause an infection. These infections are difficult to treat and require several visits to an ear, nose and throat physician for cleaning of the

When 90 percent or more of the ear canal is blocked, significant hearing loss occurs. The loss can only be relieved by removing the bony growths in the ear.

Diagnosis and treatment

The only way to treat surfer’s ears definitively is to surgically remove the bony growths.

The procedure is most commonly performed through the ear canal using very small chisels. Occasionally, a drill will be used to remove the growths.

The drill is only used for the growths that are close to the ear drum. This is because use of the chisel close to the ear drum increases the chance of getting a hole in the ear drum from the surgery.

If the bony growths extend close to the ear drum, the surgery may be done from behind the ear through an incision.

You will go home the same day as the procedure, although the recovery period is at least one month.

During the recovery period, water should not enter the ear canal. This means no swimming or surfing, and ear plugs must be worn when in water (such as the shower or bath). If ear plugs are not worn after the ear canals have healed, surfer's ear can return over the course of several years.

Prevention

The best way to prevent surfer's ear is to wear ear plugs while surfing.

Other methods of prevention include wearing a hood or special headband that covers and seals the ears. Wearing ear plugs and a hood or headband together adds even more protection.

To learn more, call 714-456-7017 or request an appointment online ›

Make an Appointment

714-456-7017