Surfer's Ear

The Facts about Surfer’s Ear

While it’s commonly confused with swimmer’s ear, surfer’s ear is caused by the same conditions, but the effects are quite different. In this article, we will explore the causes and indicators of surfer’s ear and what you can do if you have been diagnosed.

What are the Causes of Surfer’s Ear?

Like swimmer’s ear, surfer’s ear is caused by prolonged and repeated exposure to cold, wet conditions. Add wind, and you have the perfect recipe for developing surfer’s ear. Also known as exostosis, bone growths develop inside the ear as a result of constant cold conditions. Once the exostosis starts, it continues to grow with each exposure until it is removed through surgery.

What Are The Symptoms?

The symptoms can be subtle and hard to notice until an issue that requires medical intervention occurs. The most common tell-tale signs that indicate the onset of surfer’s ear are:

Difficulty expelling water from the ears

As the exostosis grows, it can block water and wax from draining properly, making everything sound like it’s underwater.

Constant or reoccurring ear infections

The inability to drain the inner ear can lead to infections or worse. Once an infection sets in, only surgery to remove the growth will alleviate surfer’s ear.

Pain and swelling around the ear

As infection sets in, it’s common for the area to throb and be painful to the touch. In severe cases, the area around the infected ear can become swollen and red.

Diminished hearing

While diminished hearing by itself is not considered an indicator, however, if it occurs in combination with one or more of the above symptoms, or it happens only in one ear.

What Treatments Are Available?

In truth, the only treatment for surfer’s ear is surgery. This is definitely a case where one ounce of prevention is worth 10 pounds of cure. Seasoned surfers and avid water sport adventurers recommend the following tips to help prevent this painful condition:

• Limit your time in the water, and watch local weather conditions, avoiding the coolest times of the day.
• Wear ear plugs to prevent water from entering the ears.
• Invest in a wetsuit hood that protects the ears and head from cold and wet conditions.

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