Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had a good couple of hours surf, you get home and there’s water you can’t get rid of in your ears? Have you suffered from slight loss of hearing over time (which is not old age, or selective hearing), or you’re constantly battling with ear infections?
Chances are you may have a mild case of surfers ear!
So what is ‘surfer’s ear‘, you may hear fellow surfers and water users mention? Surfer’s Ear is a known as exostosis. Which is defined as: ‘a benign outgrowth of cartilaginous tissue on a bone.‘ Or in layman’s terms, an abnormal bone growth in you ear canal.
So why is this a problem?
The average diameter of an ear canal is 5- 8mm, as surfer’s ear progresses and remains untreated, this gap slowly closes. However people generally do not seek help until the ear canal is between 0.5 – 2mm, as they will noticed impaired hearing.
The problems associated with your ear canal thickening will be:
These will also be the symptoms of surfer’s ear.
How do you get get it?
The most common way to get surfer’s ear is to be frequently exposed to cold water and wind. The irritation from cold water combined with wind exposure, causes the bone surrounding the ear canal to grow and slowly narrow.
There’s no particular age in which surfer’s ear is common, however it’s important to realise that the effects will be directly proportional to the amount of time you’re expose to cold water and windy conditions; all of which are associated with surfing in the UK.
With the improvement in wetsuit technology and the popularity of surfing, more people are able to stay out in the water for longer, and in colder conditions.
The effects of surfer’s ear is not only restricted to cold water climates. In warmer waters, when water gets trapped in your ear, the wind causes the evaporate in the ear canal to cool, which will cause bone growth associated with surfer’s ear. The warmer temperatures will also accelerate bacterial growth in the the ear canal, leading to further ear infections.
Surgery will remove the excessive bone growth from your ear canal. With most surgeons removing this by drilling the bone in the ear canal by making an incision behind the ear. Other methods will include chipping away at the bone with a 1mm chisel.
Recuperation can take weeks to months, which means time out of the water!
How is this prevented?
The most obvious way to prevent surfer’s ear will be to avoid activities in cold and windy conditions!!! Good luck keeping most of us out of the water when the surf is pumping. So the alternatives are:
Surf Hoods/ Caps
These will not only keep your head warm, but also protect your ears from the cold water and wind. However not ideal for when the the weather gets warmer! So……
Good ear plugs are highly important. Surf Ears and EQ Seals are a cheaper alternative to custom doctors ear plugs. Yet they really help prevent surfers ear by blocking out water and wind, giving you the ability to hear, whilst not greatly affecting your balance.